An annual tradition: the post where I spit out a bunch of hockey thoughts right after football season ends.
Andrew Copp emoji state.
AT RIGHT: Friday night immediately after OT goal
They are going to the tournament. Michigan's fantabulous 10-2-1 record has come against a tough slate of opponents; unadjusted win percentage has M's opponent's third; the more sophisticated KRACH system has them 12th. As a result they are second in both RPI and KRACH, behind only Minnesota. They're also tied for second in the revamped Pairwise*. Unless they implode, Michigan is on pace for a bid. Hell, they're on pace for a one seed.
They are living on the edge. Michigan isn't as good as their record. Don't take it from me, take it from Red, who said something along those lines a few weeks ago. They have played only three games not decided by one goal: 3-1 over BC, 6-0 over Niagara, and 7-4 over RIT. Hooray winning one goal games and all, but:
- Michigan is 3-0-1 in five minute OT sessions.
- Their goalies have a collective .937, and that's not because every shot is from the blue line.
- Shots for and against are dead even at 428.
- Pythagorean expectation (upshot: goal differential is a better predictive metric than record) works just as well in the NHL as it does MLB, and Michigan is 7th in scoring margin, way behind the Gophers.
Who's happy with #7 in goal differential? Everybody. But they're not playing like the elite team their record and the rankings suggest. There's no denying they've had a hefty helping of fortune so far and replaying this season results in a record this good maybe 5% of the time.
The blue line is a large problem. Bennett's great; everyone else is worrisome at best. The OSU comeback Monday was a collection of gross errors from the defense corps, from Chiasson wandering out to a player behind the net without putting his stick down, thus allowing a centering pass right through him, to Downing sliding his way behind the net on a 4 on 3. On Friday, Clare threw a blind backhand pass behind his own net with three minutes left in a one goal game instead of chipping the puck out of the zone; five seconds later it was no longer a one-goal game.
With Serville hurt, Michigan turned to junior forward Andrew Sinelli as the #6 D, and my buddy and I went from panicking about this to wondering if Michigan would sit Clare in favor of him when Serville was back. Since he hardly saw a shift late Monday you'd think the answer to that is undoubtedly "no," but Spath says he's threatening Serville:
"I like his quickness," Berenson said. "He's a good skater. He goes back to get the puck and he'll win that race. He'll take a hit to make a play. And he's a defensive forward so he has good defensive instincts in our zone."
Szuma missed some time with a concussion but after a long and thorough rest, he's back at practice. It appears, though, that for now, Sinelli has won the job and he will be given every chance to compete with Serville to be the Maize and Blue's sixth defenseman.
Chiasson has apparently slid past Serville to solidify his job, which makes sense to me. Clare holding his spot without threat… not so much.
Sinelli is much defter with the puck than most of Michigan's available defensemen and surprisingly physical for a small guy. He effectively pinned a bunch of guys to the boards and didn't make any glaring errors. He could help. This is both an endorsement of Sinelli and a cocked eyebrow at the rest of the crew.
But hey Bennett. Getting any scoring from the D has been the main issue with Michigan's offense so far. They're 16th in scoring with virtually no contribution from the D. Bennett pulled both of those OSU games out of the fire, first with the great stretch pass embedded above, then with a plunge into the goal mouth to take a cross-ice pass from Chiasson(!) to complete the World's Most Dangerous Goal.
If that had rebounded such that OSU got a quick breakout that was a 3-on-1 developing with Di Giuseppe back. Yikes. But it went in, so hooray.
Guptill's penalty shot against BU is one of five goals on the year for him [Bill Rapai]
The forwards are deep with little top end. I love me some Copp and Compher, who just scored two of the dirtiest crease goals Michigan's put in since… well, it's been a while since Michigan's had a true goalmouth fiend. Those guys bring value beyond their scoring lines and both are at a PPG.
But while it seems like Di Giuseppe, Nieves, Moffatt, and Guptill is a hell of a supporting cast, not a lot is happening 5 on 5 here. Those scoring line veterans have six goals 5v5 in 13 games. That's a little disappointing. The power play, clicking at 25%, is keeping everybody afloat right now; they're going to have to get some more even strength production if they're going to keep winning games if and when the save percentage and PP come back to earth.
Speaking of clicking. The turnaround in the power play is kind of incredible. Last year their single idea was get the puck to Trouba, and this was an okay enough idea to get Michigan to 19%. The year before they were completely miserable at 15%; they were at 17% the year before. All of these numbers seemed deserved.
This year's number also seems deserved. Michigan gets much better puck movement and regularly finds guys for cross-ice bombs that have been the most effective way to put the puck in the net since NHL 94. I don't get why it's happening this year instead of previous years, but I'll take it.
Inexplicable player enthusiasm of the year. Always one guy on the team who does nothing statistically but I find a way to advocate anyway, and this year it's Zach Hyman. Hyman's 1-2-3 line is obviously bleah. I still manage to think that he's much better at coming out of the corners with a purpose than anyone else on the team and should be flanked by two skilled players to take advantage of his ability to create offense off the cycle.
He seems like a different player, even if the stats aren't showing it. Remember this if he blows up in the next 20 games. Forget it if he doesn't.
No Racine is no problem. [Bill Rapai]
Goaltending is weird. Steve Racine started Monday's game out with some shaky rebound control before righting the ship and turning in one of the best four goals allowed performances you'll see; he has a .925 this year, building on the .920 he put up in the final ten games of his freshman season. And this is nothing compared to Nagelvoort, who's putting up Hunwick numbers: .945, 1.65 GAA.
Quite a difference there… and sad to say probably not a sustainable one. Teams that manage to have those kinds of save percentages over the course of the year are generally Cornell or Ron Mason-era MSU teams that place a heavy emphasis on defense and conservatism; Michigan just scored on a cross-ice goalmouth pass from D to D. Meanwhile, the shaky defense corps is giving up a ton of Grade A opportunities, and eventually those are going to start going in unless Michigan gets it together.
Even if it's not sustainable, that's 23 consecutive games of goaltending ranging from high quality to outstanding. At some point the sample size is about as good as its going to get, and we can put the terrible memories of last year behind. That point is coming up very soon.
Is Josh Blackburn still working with Michigan's goalies as a volunteer? Can someone buy him a smoothie or something?
The rest of the league is Minnesota and poop. I fielded a couple of questions about why I was high on Minnesota instead of Wisconsin and didn't really have an answer other than "Wisconsin always does this," and Wisconsin is doing it again: they're 4-5-1 on the year and just got swept by the Gophers in their first Big Ten series; they got blown out by both Boston schools. And they're probably the third best team in the league. The rest:
- OSU is 8-6 with seven of their wins against Robert Morris, Niagara, Canisius, and BGSU (a split with UMD is the final win). They played well against Michigan but still got swept; they were swept by Miami in their first series of the year, and Miami's not that good right now.
- MSU is 5-7 with 4 wins over American International (3-8) and Princeton (3-10); they were recently swept by Michigan Tech.
- Penn State is 3-7-1 with wins over Army, Robert Morris, and Sacred Heart; they were swept by Air Force and Union.
- Minnesota leads the nation in goal differential and is rather good at hockey. They've beaten UNH and taken a three point weekend from BC, plus split against ND.
Minnesota's the heavy favorite to win the league, and Michigan should finish second. No one else is likely to make the tournament.
*[I don't have a handle on what the changes did yet. In previous years I've downplayed the Pairwise until late in the season due to its volatility, preferring RPI as a better projection of where you would finish in the PWR at the end of the year than the actual PWR. If that seems like a dumb ranking system to you, well, at least they overhauled it?]
In HTTV last year we made a strange assertion: that given the relative drop-off to their replacements, Kovacs would probably be missed more than Denard Robinson. I thought I'd pose the question now concerning this year's seniors, except there's one guy who could have gone 1st overall in the NFL draft LAST YEAR, and he's being replaced by either a member of the worst interior offensive line in Michigan memory or a guy who couldn't beat out one of those guys for playing time.
|Actually, #2 Taylor Lewan's twosie and #3 Taylor Lewan's pet pig are also out of the running. [Upchurch]|
So, OTHER than that guy,
Which senior will Michigan miss most next season?
Ace: I'll leave a couple very strong candidates aside—namely, Jeremy Gallon and Thomas Gordon—and go to the other bookend of the offensive line, Michael Schofield. Michigan already needs to get much (much) better play out of the interior of the line next year, not to mention a major step up in blocking from the backs and tight ends. Losing not just one, but two NFL-quality tackles means the Wolverines once again head into a new season with major uncertainty up front.
I expect the interior line to be better, especially since some of the true freshmen who weren't viable options this season—especially Patrick Kugler and David Dawson—should at least be ready to compete for a spot on the two-deep. Losing Schofield along with Lewan, however, means that there's almost no margin for error with the new tackles; Michigan needs to find two decent starters out of Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and... that's about it.
I guess Dawson could play right tackle, as could Kyle Kalis, but both are more natural fits inside. Chris Fox, coming off a major knee injury that delayed his freshman progress, and Logan Tuley-Tillman, a raw-upside prospect with a heavy emphasis on raw, probably won't be ready to step in and be very effective.
Losing Lewan hurts the most, of course; that's compounded by the absence of Schofield—who really came into his own this year—leaving Michigan with, at best, four relatively unproven players competing for two open tackle spots while the interior of the line is still very much a question mark.
[After the jump: Pining for (Scho)fields]
Duke's gameplan was obvious: don't let Nik Stauskas touch the ball, let alone shoot it, and force the rest of the Wolverines to find a way to score. Tyler Thornton and Matt Jones spent most of the game face-guarding Stauskas, limiting Michigan's leading scorer to four points—all on free throws*—on 0/2 shooting while the rest of the team faltered, save for a late push from Caris LeVert.
The 79-69 final score is rather deceptive; Duke led by double-digits for most of the game and pushed the margin as high as 18 points in the late stages, with Michigan unable to get closer than six points behind in the second half. The Wolverines scored 19 fruitless points in the final two minutes to carve eight points out of the deficit; by that time, Duke was content to keep Michigan at arm's reach with their free-throw shooting.
Simply put, this game was a major indictment of Michigan's supporting cast—at this point, it's clear that Stauskas is the offensive star, the rest playing supporting roles. Glenn Robinson III's woes on both ends of the court showed up at the worst time. He was nearly invisible offensively and ineffective when he attempted to get aggressive, scoring eight points on nine shots—with half those points coming after the game was well in hand—and failing to get to the free-throw line. He couldn't create a clean look for his jump shot or get around defenders to attack the basket. On the other end, he was pulled from the game at least once for repeated failures to box out his man, and when Michigan got lost on perimeter switches he was often involved.
Until Caris LeVert decided to put the team on his back in the second half, when he scored 20 of his team-leading 24 points, nobody else stepped up, either. Duke's aggressive hedging against the pick-and-roll made it difficult to get the ball to Mitch McGary in the post; even when he was open, the guards failed to get him the ball in good position—eight of his 15 points came in the final two minutes after Duke basically stopped boxing out. Derrick Walton had a couple very nice takes to the hoop in transition en route to seven points on 3/6 shooting; in the halfcourt, however, he couldn't facilitate the offense, tallying just one assist to three turnovers, one of which was a what-was-that pass deep into the Cameron Crazies. Zak Irvin was limited to 14 minutes and managed five points on five shots.
LeVert was certainly a bright spot in the second half, slicing his way into the lane with regularity, finishing well, and getting to the line; after going 2/5 in the first half with no free throw attempts, he shot 6/13 from the field in the latter stanza and knocked down all seven of his shots from the charity stripe. If there's one positive to take away from this game, it's his apparent willingness to be the go-to guy when Stauskas is rendered ineffective; after waiting on Robinson and McGary to be the guy, he had to step up and did so. Yes, he's occasionally overmatched by bigger players on defense; he's also very effective at the top of the 1-3-1 and is clearly the team's second-best offensive player this year.
His emergence in this game was too little, too late, unfortunately; Michigan needs more than one of their perimeter players to score consistently if they want to beat good teams, and they didn't have an answer when Duke took away Stauskas. I don't think this is a coaching issue; when an opponent is flat-out turning their back to the play and solely focusing on denying one player the ball, the rest of the offense should be able to create open looks while playing four-on-four. Aside from LeVert, nobody could manage this as Duke funneled everything inside—Michigan was 3/13 from beyond the arc—and forced the perimeter players to beat them off the dribble.
A loss to Duke at Cameron is nothing to be ashamed of, but the way this game played out should be very worrisome for Michigan. Stauskas has been identified as the main threat, and now there's a blueprint for stopping the offense cold unless someone else—not just LeVert—raises their level of play. This is still a young team that can improve dramatically over the course of the year; it's clear they're going to have to if they want to compete for a Big Ten title.
*To further emphasize how much Duke took Stauskas out of the equation, three of his four free-throw makes came after Blue Devil technical fouls, not anything he did offensively.
Duke: creating future generations of people who will crush the economy for their personal benefit
WELP. Ace will have a fuller postmortem shortly, but the short version of what happened at Duke: Michigan spent the first half playing offense like the football team not against ND or OSU and dug themselves a hole they could not extract themselves from.
Very frustrating that Duke can extend their defense so aggressively and not give up backdoor cuts, of which I don't think Michigan had a single one all night. I don't get it. A few bullets:
- GRIII is the same guy and has to be seeing his NBA draft stock crumble as teams get a longer look at him and see someone who can stand in the corner and make threes at an acceptable rate and throw down some dunks but do little else, especially as an NBA three.
- LeVert was pretty much the only guy willing to and capable of driving at a set Duke defense to generate shot opportunities.
- Michigan's defense was actually all right, but flattered by a poor shooting night for Duke in the first half. Duke didn't put Michigan in too many situations where they switched, which previously led to a lot of confusion and things like LeVert trying to cover a power forward. This happened maybe once or twice.
- Everyone in the Duke student section looks like the villain from a 1980s teen comedy.
- Sports! Hate you, sports.
Yeah, pretty much. Ross Fulton breaks down what happened in the OSU game on both sides of the ball, noting that OSU often didn't align well and seemed unprepared for some things that Michigan had shown plenty of:
Like Iowa this year or Cal two years ago, Michigan was able to get easy yards by aligning their blocking strength to the boundary and running to the edge. By aligning to the defensive front to the field and failing to adjust, the Buckeyes are outflanked before the snap. For instance, Michigan picked up easy yards by putting their tight end and wing to the boundary and running touch passes to Jeremy Gallon.
In fact, Michigan went so far as to put their tackle to the boundary to run speed option and the Buckeyes still did not adjust. Michigan has previously shown this look (with limited success) this season, but the Buckeyes did not seem to expect it.
I don't know if that's good news or bad news. OSU's defense doesn't seem particularly well-organized (compare throwback/tunnel screens in this game to Michigan's attempt against MSU), which is a good thing in one game per year as long as OSU doesn't make changes. But some of their success being the stuff they'd already put on film that OSU was inexplicably unprepared for is less good than Michigan having a bunch of wizbang.
The proper way to have a vote of confidence. There is exactly one correct way to tell the universe that your embattled head coach isn't going anywhere. It is three sentences of boilerplate in which you strongly endorse the man in charge and say nothing else, because saying anything else is not useful.
For example: "Coach Hoke will be at the University of Michigan next year and for several years after. While this season has been a trying one, Michigan barely had a non-freshman interior offensive lineman on the roster and has to-date retained 51 of 52 recruits in Hoke's first two full classes, providing needed stability after years of turmoil on and off the field. He is the man for the job."
This is short, and crucially does not
MAKE IDIOTIC COMPARISONS TO NICK SABAN
Many don't remember that Alabama finished fourth in its division during Nick Saban's fourth year with the Crimson Tide. At present, Alabama seems to be doing pretty well!!
Nick Saban won a national title in his third year.
USE MULTIPLE EXCLAMATION POINTS LIKE A HIGH SCHOOL GIRL
I imagine the editorial meeting about this spent 15 minutes talking about whether "pretty well" needed two or three exclamation points, with the third getting axed because This Is Michigan and three exclamation points is just not done for anything other than the many and varied accomplishments of the University of Michigan.
BRING UP THE GUY MICHIGAN—***YOU***—WHIFFED ON BECAUSE OF THE PROCESS
Stanford had 4-8, 5-7 and 8-5 records under Jim Harbaugh before reaching its current string of consecutive BCS appearances
ALSO STANFORD WAS 1-11.
THROW A FORMER COACH UNDER THE BUS FOR NO REASON
The senior class was recruited by Coach Carr and had some terrific talent that had simply been underperforming.
Football is simple, says the BTN commercial.
NOT AT ALL INCIDENTALLY THROW DENARD ROBINSON, MIKE MARTIN, JORDAN KOVACS, DESMOND MORGAN, TAYLOR LEWAN AND JAKE RYAN UNDER THE BUS
Seriously, seniors recruited by Lloyd Carr had about 20% to do with that Sugar Bowl season, because his last class was horrendous.
MAKE UNJUSTIFIABLE ASSERTIONS ABOUT THE MOTIVATIONS OF PEOPLE WHO THINK THIS SEASON PUTS BRADY HOKE'S JOB AT RISK
Anyone making efforts to stir up a coaching controversy at Michigan is ill-informed and is likely promoting a personal agenda that is not in the best interest of Michigan Football.
They will be taken to our new Go Blue Gulag in the upper peninsula.
MENTION THE DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR BUT NOT MENTION THE OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR
The transformation and improvement of our defense under the leadership of coach Greg Mattison has been outstanding.
This was taken as a sure sign Borges was getting axed when there has been very little indication that would happen from inside the program. This was not mentioned in the editorial meeting because of the exclamation point discussion.
But, hey, why say what you have to say in 100 words when you can take a thousand?
I HAVE JUST THE SOLUTION. From the NYT's repulsive tongue-bath of Jim Delany:
After the Southeastern Conference expanded to include the University of Missouri and after the Atlantic Coast Conference added the University of Notre Dame (the school’s football program remained independent) and the University of Pittsburgh — both schools within the Big Ten’s geographic footprint — Mr. Delany concluded that the Big Ten was in danger of ceding strategic ground. “We felt threatened,” he said.
The solution was clear.
Mr. Delany countered with the invitations to Rutgers, then of the Big East, and Maryland of the A.C.C.
YOUR MOVE, SEC.
wait youre just going to not do anything
UT San Antonio is out there man
make a move
Speaking of Rutgers…
So much for that theory. I'd ventured that Rutgers might actually become a good program in the Big Ten since New Jersey puts out quite a bit of talent and they would be able to flag down a lot more of it now that they were in a power conference. That prediction was looking pretty good as Rutgers locked down an array of quality local recruits en route to what looked like the best Big Ten recruiting class of the year, non-M-OSU division.
That's now in shambles as Rutgers deals with yet another coach-abuse fallout scandal. Recruits are decommiting in droves after this, which happened a week or two ago:
The incident -- which Jevon Tyree said occurred in April with the Rice fallout still fresh -- happened in front of approximately 10 teammates and a tutor, Jevon Tyree said, and it led to the 19-year-old's escalating ostracization, eventually driving him to quit.
Clarice Tyree called it "an outright bullying episode," and Mark Tyree said the behavior soon "transferred to the other coaches." Jevon Tyree, a redshirt freshman on scholarship, said that after the frightening incident, his standing on the team plummeted, along with practice repetitions and any shot at playing time. He said there were team meetings from which he was excluded.
Four of Rutgers's top recruits have decommited in the aftermath of this going public, including MI QB Tyler Wiegers.
Rutgers is just months removed from firing their basketball coach for flinging basketballs at players' heads and hired an athletic director who had been a coach so hated that most of her last team banded together to release a statement about what a horrible person she was. And no one got the football coaches together and said "hey, let's maybe not call people bitches two inches from their faces." The athletic director in the aftermath:
Look: I don’t know if Hermann is lying. I only know that her response, when I asked her on Saturday morning if she had indeed talked to Mark Tyree, was less than convincing.
This was the answer: “Yeah. Somebody – if it’s not him, who calls me and informs me of it? Otherwise I wouldn’t know about it. So I’m not trying to call – I’m not trying to use big words like the words he’s using, but I’m informed by him, to my knowledge. If it’s not him, who’s calling me?”
People in charge of things are just in charge of them, possibly for no reason. In Rutgers's case, definitely for no reason.
Hockey commits. Michigan picked up a couple of future hockey players over the last few days. Cooper Marody is a '96 forward who is probably a 2015 recruit in his first USHL season; he's got 5-11-16 in 23 games and is second in the USHL for his age cohort in that department. SBN College Hockey notes he's a "blazingly fast skater" at six-foot-even. And I think this commitment is going to stick, you guys.
— Cooper Marody (@MarodShow12) December 1, 2013
-- Griffin Luce, the son of Florida Panthers (NHL) director of scouting Scott Luce, has decided on Salisbury. The St. Thomas, Ontario native, a top ‘98 defenseman who could be selected in the 1st round of the OHL draft next year, played for the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs this past season. Will be joined at Salisbury by his brother, Harrison Luce, who will be a PG.
The elder Luce played at Colgate, and they obviously know all about Griffin's options, so this is also a commitment that's relatively OHL-proof. Google knows nothing else about Luce, as is often the case for super-young hockey commits, especially defensemen.
Etc.: Charles Pierce on The Game.
The Michigan coaching staff is being diligent when it comes to offering quarterbacks from the 2015 class. Josh Rosen is still the only signal caller to be offered but two new names have surfaced as potential offerees: Zach Gentry and Jimmy Fitzgerald are both receiving substantial attention from the Michigan coaches. I was able to catch up with both to see how they are feeling the Wolverines and gauge interest from both ends.
Name: Zach Gentry
Ht/Wt: 6'6"/230 lbs.
Location: Eldorado High School – Albequerque, NM
Offers: Louisville, New Mexico, New Mexico State, San Diego State
When you are the grandson of the all-time winningest high school coach in your home-state you are expected to be a student of the game. Zach Gentry is just that as the grandson of Bill Gentry, a National High School Hall of Famer and all time wins leader in New Mexico. Grandpa Bill taught his grandson well and has helped mold him into a coveted prospect in the 2015 class.
Gentry was invited by the Michigan staff to attend the Ohio State game last weekend but being a New Mexican the travel arrangements and his basketball schedule proved to be too much to overcome. Gentry was legitimately bummed out that he couldn’t make it.
I wish I could’ve went but unfortunately between expenses and my basketball schedule I just couldn’t do it. I watched it on TV though! Michigan is a place that I am definitely interested in so I could see myself visiting at some point for sure. I would love to visit and it’s something I will discuss with my family, but I need to know where exactly they stand with me too.
It’s easy to understand why the coaches are interested in Gentry. At 6’6”, and over 230 lbs. he has prototypical size to run the pro-style offense. He’s also more athletic than most people give him credit for, running a 4.67 forty. I asked him to describe his own game.
I think that I’m described as a pocket-passer but people don’t realize that I can actually tuck the ball and I feel really comfortable running. If people watched me play they would see how I can sling the ball around well, but move and make quick cuts also for how big I am.
A few college coaches have told Gentry that he reminds them of a more athletic Ryan Mallett with his big frame and strong arm.
Michigan has shown an increased level of interest in Gentry recently and he is starting to form a pretty solid relationship with the staff.
They have done a great job staying in contact with me via game invites and mail. I’d say that of all the teams interested in me, Michigan has arguably sent me the most mail and invited me to the most games. I really like the staff there a lot and I think Coach Hoke will always have Michigan competitive. The staff has done a great job with me.
The young quarterback kept it PC and didn’t tip his hand to any type of leader or favorite at this point when it came to desirable offers. Being from New Mexico he didn’t really grow up rooting for any particular team.
A family friend of Zach’s currently attends Michigan and has spoken very positively of her experiences on campus and in the stands.
She has been to a lot of games and has said that they are absolutely awesome! She says that the crowd and pregame festivities are unbelievable!
Since Zach has never even been to the state of Michigan this influence from a family friend is a nice boost in his perception of student life in Ann Arbor. He hopes to someday experience it himself during a visit.
As always west coast kids can be hard to pull from home, but New Mexico isn’t California with multiple high-level universities to choose from. Gentry is 1,500 miles from Ann Arbor but that distance isn’t enough to keep the tradition and history out of his mind. He expressed how grateful he was that a school and program like Michigan was interested in him.
With a few offers already in his pocket and a senior season still to play Gentry has a while until a decision needs to be made and he is not in a hurry.
I’d like to let things happen and just play out for now, but if I feel really comfortable with a place I’ll go ahead and decide. As far as factors are concerned, the coaching staff, academics, and the type of offense they run are all important to me. I’d like an offense where I can sit in the pocket and throw the ball from a drop-back, but I’d also love to get the ball in my hands to carry it too. Michigan definitely fits the bill at this point.
I really like Gentry on film and he’s not lying when he says that he moves well for a kid his size. Louisville is a nice early offer for him but he didn’t mention the Cardinals at all when I asked him about a leader or favorite group. If offered I expect Michigan to get a very serious look from him.
Name: Jimmy Fitzgerald
Ht/Wt: 6'3"/220 lbs.
Location: Centennial High School – Champaign, IL
Offers: Akron, Harvard, Illinois, Yale
Clearly a smart kid, Jimmy Fitzgerald knew that he needed to be on hand last Saturday for The Game to take in his first experience at Michigan. Despite the outcome he came away more than impressed with the atmosphere of the The Big House.
Fitzgerald has made a big enough impression on the coaching staff for Coach Mallory to make a trip to Centennial High School on Tuesday to watch him throw in person. Fitzgerald told me that he threw it well enough to warrant a return trip from Coach Borges next week.
His offers from Harvard and Yale prove that he’s an intelligent young man and when I asked him to describe his game he answered just how you’d expect him to.
I’m about 6’3” and 220 lbs. and I ran a 4.71 40. I consider myself a coach on the field and I love to distribute the ball to our athletes and give them room to work.
He compared himself to Andrew Luck, which is obviously a tall order to live up to, but clearly this kid has confidence in his ability and his intelligence.
Michigan has been recruiting Fitzgerald pretty aggressively and he spoke very highly of the university and the coaching staff.
Michigan is a great school academically and athletically. It really would be a great opportunity. I already feel like I’m pretty close with Coach Mallory. I had a brief conversation with Coach Hoke on Saturday during my visit but Coach Mallory is my main contact.
Fitzgerald admitted to following the Illilni growing up in Champaign but he’s grown to like a lot of other schools realizing that they all have something different to offer a student athlete. He didn’t mention any specific schools as a leader or an early favorite, rather he said his main focus right now is just working hard in the weight room and concentrating on his studies.
Fitzgerald is nowhere near a decision at this point in his recruitment but he did say he will commit whenever it feels right. He is very serious about his academics and that is going to factor in just as much if not more than his athletic desires. It is worth noting that his grandmother is a Michigan graduate so he does have some Wolverine blood in him.
Fitzgerald is actually listed as a dual-threat quarterback on Rivals but on film his mobility appears slightly above average. He’s not going to run all over the place but he can move the chains and keep a defense honest. He seems to be pretty high on the quarterback board as Coach Mallory and Coach Borges have already made plans to watch him throw again next week. He is definitely an offer possibility.
It appears that the Michigan coaches are focusing in on about 4-6 quarterbacks in the 2015 class and Gentry and Fitzgerald appear to be two of them. I still believe the rest of the list consists of Kyle Kearns, Riley Neal, Nick Johns, and Alex Malzone. If the coaches approach the quarterback position like they did last year we are still about two months away from finding out who will claim the #2 spot behind a Cali-school-bound Josh Rosen.
The best reason I've been able to come up with for how this Michigan team could put up that kind of yardage against Ohio State is that Ohio State's defensive players are—man, how do I say this without being a total jackass homer rival?—more prone to mental errors than your average Big Ten starters.
|I hereby dedicate this post In memory of the too-short MGoCareer of Heiko "Bubble Screen" Yang. Who needs doctor money anyway?|
Another way to say it: the best and most representative player on that unit is Ryan Shazier, who is basically Jonas Mouton with five years of good coaching. Another way to say it: they're exactly as dumb as they are talented, and that's why a group of 5-stars are just an average defense. I am a total jackass homer rival.
The second-best reason, and the best you can say without coming off like a TJHR, is that which Borges himself apparently gave in the pre-game interview with Musberger: "We emptied the drawer." In other words, they finally ran all of those counters to the things they'd been doing all year.
There will be plenty of time in the months ahead to wonder why it took this long to throw paper, especially when that gamble came up just short (and the last play was a rock that OSU allegedly* RPS'ed) of paying off. For the moment, let's look at one of the "third" things they brought out for this game and what that did for the offense.
* Ohio State's players threw out one of those heartbreaking quotes about being uber-prepared for what was coming, but the play also had Gallon about to break open.
|It's hard to argue Funchess isn't an "ideal" slot ninja, isn't it? [Upchurch]|
The Bubble Package
Yards per attempt; attempts in parentheses:
|MSU||2.0 (1)||8.0 (1)||5.0|
|Northwestern||5.3 (7)||5.7 (3)||5.4|
|Iowa||3.0 (5)||1.0 (2)||2.4|
|Ohio State||4.5 (4)||7.7 (3)||18.0 (1)||7.4|
|TOTALS||4.2 (17)||5.6 (9)||18.0 (1)||5.2|
Michigan does the bubble differently than Rich Rod—he made it an automatic check against the slot defender getting too close to his running game—but both work under the same principle: keep your grubby SAM's hands away from my interior running game!
The Borges Bubble game debuted against Michigan State as a bubble screen(!) that got a remarkable-for-that-day eight yards, followed by a fake bubble (out of the shotgun) to inside zone that got unfortunately blown up by a double-a gap blitz. It really came out in the Northwestern game: ten plays for 5.4 YPP. Of those, three were the bubble screen, four were a fake to an inside zone, and three to an iso. Once it was on film, Iowa adapted but Michigan ran the same (basically) two things they had against the Wildcats. The result was 2.4 YPP on seven tries: 2 bubbles and 5 inside zones.
They run it out of different formations, usually with two tight ends opposite the bubble twins (20/27 plays I have charted were from the Ace twins twin TE or I-form twins). They do run other stuff from these formations but twins (two receivers to one side) with Gallon on the line and Funchess in the slot is a good sign the bubble game is in play.
It's a good fit for this team since it: A) de-emphasizes interior blocking by holding the SAM outside and letting his OL play 5-on-5; B) Utilizes the surprising multi-threats of Gallon (as a blocker) and Funchess (as a slot receiver), and C) Lets them get Derrick Green running downhill.
I don't have Iowa video but I can show you how they adapted. The first time Michigan ran it they threatened blitz with the SAM:
Then had that guy back out and attack Funchess. The idea was to lure Michigan into a screen if this was a check, and then blow it all to hell. Like I said, it's on tape. Fortunately Michigan doesn't run checks; they called run:
Iowa got to play their base defense against that basic zone run, and the result was 5-ish yards. That is rock on rock: it's blockers versus the blocked until safeties arrive, however the SAM was kept away from the running game by the threat of Funchess. The thing is, up to then Michigan only had a rock and a scissors, so Iowa could spend all day in this defense, ceding 3-5 yards when Michigan ran it, and blowing up the bubble constraint.
Here's what this looked like when OSU defended it:
Same playcall as Iowa except since they knew it wasn't a check they didn't bother with fake SAM ("Star" in Buckeye terminology) blitz—just lined him up against Funchess. A screen is dead.
But watch Joey Bosa (#97 on the bottom of OSU's line) get way too upfield and try to knock down the screen pass that isn't coming, thus taking himself completely out of the play. He's matched against Lewan instead of Butt, though, so Michigan was probably going to get something out of that block anyway; you still don't want to make it so easy.
The middle linebacker (#14 Curtis Grant) compounded matters by Obi Ezeh-ing his way to the hole, which gave Kerridge enough time to arrive and pop in an advantageous position. Finally, the safety (#3 Corey "City in Pennsylvania" Brown) took a long time to read the play, backing out a few steps before setting up at the 1st down line. He might have been run through if the other safety (#4 C.J. Barnett) hadn't made his way over, got depth with a neat little athletic step, and helped stop it.
So rock on rock nets a big hole and big yards, because Ohio State's defenders are something-something box of rocks. But they're not the only talent-deficient guys on the field. Michigan's OL screwed up rock on the third bubble package play of the game:
That's inside zone. With the Star taken out by the bubble fake, everyone is blocked except the safety coming down (#3 Corey "a Jewish suburb west of Pittsburgh" Brown). And he was set up outside so if Mags and Glasgow can hold their downfield blocks this could bust huge. However Glasgow and Kalis didn't do a very good job on their exchange—or else the DT (#63 Michael Bennett) just did a great job fighting through it—and the Buckeye DT ends the play with a mouthful. Bennett was bent back when Glasgow released so my inclination here is to point at Kalis and call it ten-man football.
In the Iowa play I wish I had video of, that DE threw off Butt, and the middle linebacker, despite drawing Lewan, managed to attack quick enough to cut off escape until everyone else arrived, which didn't take long since Iowa's safeties were playing with their ears back. However Green's momentum vs the size of those guys got an extra two yards. Here his 240 lbs. are irrelevant against a wall like Bennett.
[After the jump: other things you can make your fist into]