"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
Ace: We're halfway through the season, and I'm in no mood to ask the standard "how is the team doing compared to expectations?" for obvious reasons. Instead, for a more positive outlook, let's keep our eyes on the future: Which player on each side of the ball has exceeded your expectations for them heading into the year? Has anyone, in your opinion, gone from question mark to potential star?
Seth: There has been so little good news from the offense that Jack Miller's play has gone largely unnoticed. I was ready to write him off after last year to the point where I was writing off the entire OL because Miller still had a job on it. Mea culpa; there's no whiff of Rimington in his future, but it appears the dude can ball.
|Miller seems to be involved in much of the offense's little bursts of running competence. [Fuller]|
We haven't had a UFR for awhile, but when those do come out I bet you'll find the run game's quiet progress can be largely attributed to Miller pulling off the occasional block in a gap nobody but Molk has any business getting to. Even earlier in the season there were Miller-generated holes that the RBs just missed. Did you hear me, People of Earth Who Lived Through the Neg-Two and 27 for 27? THERE WERE HOLES! Upperclassmen are nice, and also a nice reminder that most OL take a long time to develop.
On defense it's Ryan Glasgow, with Jourdan Lewis running a close second. Remember what you thought when you first heard Glasgow was atop the depth chart? You thought "Oh dear, Pipkins is still damaged and a walk-on is ahead of everyone else." That seems like forever ago; it was six weeks ago.
It took just a few games for Glasgow to earn the Order of St. Kovacs, his asterisks packed away for his eventual NFL destination to do human interest stories. I remind you even the Great and Mighty Kovacs spent a season as the opposite of Ed Reed (and went out, miserably, on a play that reminded us how much he wasn't Ed Reed). Some decent run outfits haven't been able to get anywhere against Michigan except when Glasgow rotates out, and there have even been a few GRrraaaarrr plays of brute strength to hint at a higher ceiling.
His game could use some pass rush, but has exceeded expectations to the point that I want Adam to ask the coaches where was guy this last year when they were playing Jibreel Black at nose? I'll say this for Brady Hoke: when he's gone, I suspect I will dearly miss the Heininger Certainty Principle.
[jump for people saying positive things about offensive players, perhaps]
WELP! WELP! WELP! welp
I-AA And Beyond
All these guys are risks. Just look at Bobby Hauck, who went a staggering 80-17 at Montana and has three two-win seasons and a seven win season at UNLV.
BOMBS OVER BEILEIN Y'ALL
BOB STITT, COLORADO SCHOOL OF MINES
BASICS: 12 years as HC/OC of D-II CSM, before that two years as Harvard OC and smaller jobs. 90-57, 1-2 in three trips to the D-II playoffs. 50 years old.
PROS: Extensive head coach experience at an academically demanding school that had previous experienced no success. 2001, his second year, was CSM's first winning season in a decade; 7 wins was their best record since 1958(!). Since getting established with an 12-1 record in 2004 only two CSM teams have finished worse than 6-3 in conference.
Has a reputation as an offensive innovator after Dana Holgorsen credited him with the play WVU used to obliterate Clemson in that one Orange Bowl. Does weekly coaching recap show in which he diagrams plays. Seems cool with shirts that say "Stitt happens."
CONS: No experience with big time football, and I mean none: coaching career has taken him from Northern Colorado Greeley to Doane College to Austin College to Harvard to CSM. No idea how he'd recruit.
OVERALL: Here's your Beilein. Quality 50-year-old dude with long, successful track record and reputation as offensive guru with recruiting and can-he-be-big-time questions. CSM is a lot farther from Michigan in Big Time considerations than WVU, obviously.
BEAU BALDWIN, EASTERN WASHINGTON
BASICS: 56-22 in six years on the blood-red field at EWU, coming off consecutive final four appearances in the I-AA playoffs and a national championship in 2010. Had one year at Central Washington, a D-II school before that. Career as an assistant included four years at EWU as OC and QB coach; before that was a Central Washington QB and then their QB coach, commencing immediately upon graduation. 42 years old.
PROS: Wildly successful in the Big Sky. Young. Significantly improved on Paul Wulff's EWU tenure, which saw years around .500 most of the time with only two 9-4 outliers.
CONS: May have never left the state of Washington. Usual experience issues. Paul Wulff flameout indicative of the flier nature of any of these guys. EWU seems to have in-built advantages that lend themselves to success irrespective of HC quality.
OVERALL: Has had more success at a higher level than Stitt, albeit in a briefer time period and coming from a much less dire starting point.
ROB AMBROSE, TOWSON
BASICS: Took over a moribund Towson program that went 3-19 in his first two years and flipped the script, going 29-10 the last three and reaching the I-AA championship game last year. Former Towson WR, has spent virtually all of his coaching career either at his alma mater or UConn, where he was first their QB coach and then OC from 2006 to 2008. 44 years old.
PROS: Youth, crazy Towson turnaround, etc., etc. These guys all have the same profile.
CONS: Same as the other guys. Shorter track record than either.
OVERALL: If you're reaching down here Stitt seems like the pick.
[After THE JUMP: oh no the NFL, plus goblins]
Dennis Norfleet, Frank Clark, Jack Miller
Frank, obviously that wasn’t what your defense wanted [with] the third down struggles, the passing yards and stuff. What do you identify as the single biggest reason for all that?
FC: “Just poor execution. As a defense one thing you’ve got to do and you take pride in is stopping the run first and foremost, and then getting off the field on third down and that’s something that we failed to do this past Saturday. All we can do from this point on is continue to progress and get better as far as those situations, those third-and-longs, third-and-shorts even and come out next week- this week, actually, and make a difference.”
One of those was yours before the half. Can you take us through that?
FC: “Just failed execution. It was a pretty obvious play. I should have made the play, but that play is over with and I move forward from it. I think I’ve beat myself up enough over it. Like I said, that’s just one of those plays I should have made. I tell myself all the time- I’d say 99% of the time I would have made that play. That was that 1% that I didn’t.”
Jack, you guys talk about blocking things out and not hearing the outside, but what would it mean to the guys on this team to have a crowd that is pretty packed and whipped up for a night game here?
JM: “It’d be awesome, and that’s what we’re hoping happens. There’s no place like the Big House when it gets rocking, and we’re really looking forward to coming home for the first night game in the Big Ten here and all that stuff and having a fun night. So we’re looking forward to the support from the fans and the students and hopefully they can give us an extra edge to get a W out there.”
[More after THE JUMP]
file, but he had the same pullover on so not really
Can you talk about the loss of Derrick Green a little bit and how it impacts you? He looked like he had one of his best games. Two really good carries and then the clavicle injury.
“Well, obviously disappointing to lose Derrick and it was one of his better games. Felt like he was really dialed in focused, ran extremely hard. So we’ve got great expectations for the other guys. DeVeon’s done an outstanding job all season, as has Justice. Some other guys have got to step up. Drake’s got to step up and we’ll continue to move forward and we’ll feel good about those guys moving forward.”
When you look at Devin, what were the changes that you saw from, I guess, the benching until Saturday? Were there dramatic improvements in his play?
“The biggest thing I think, Devin- I’ve talked about it all season. His preparation has been second to none. He’s done an outstanding job each and every week of preparing himself to play, and I felt like he played extremely fast in this game. Made some really good decisions. Obviously he had the one interception, but other than that- and that was a matter of circumstance more than anything else, but he played I thought extremely fast and effective.”
With Drake and Justice, can you talk about- you’ve seen them a lot more than any of us. Talk about what they bring to the field when they’re on the field.
“Well, I think you’ve seen Justice has played a lot for us in third-down type situations to date. Outstanding protector. Really understands defense. Understands how to see blitzes, recognize, and does a really outstanding job in protection.
“Drake has done a really good job in practice, so it’s just been more a matter of numbers than anything for him. He’s a slashing-type back. Has really good vision, and looking forward to having an opportunity to get him out there.”
With DeVeon, he hasn’t ever had more than 10 carries in a game. With this opportunity, how do you see him taking that on his back. Can he be a 25, 30 carries a game guy?
“Well he’s been preparing to carry it as many times as need be all season long, and just a matter of circumstance at times. Derrick’s done a really nice job and he hasn’t gotten as many touches, but if you look at the productivity in his touches it’s been really good.”
I know that we talked about Devin’s health and you guys want to keep him health obviously, but at what point do you make it a priority to sort of get him more on the move and sort of let him do things with his legs? Is that something you look at here going forward?
“Well, I think I’ve said it all along. You never want to take the caliber of player that Devin is with his athletic ability and really restrict that. Tried to, from an offensive standpoint, let him let the system work for him, and then when things aren’t there make plays with his feet but obviously any time you can use the quarterback as an effective running weapon it creates another dimension the defense has to defend. On the same side of that you’ve also got to be conscious of protecting the quarterback and making sure he’s not taking undue shots.”
[After THE JUMP: the Cheshire Cat’s response to the Darboh catch]
You might think downing a slow-rolling punt on the opponent's 11-yard line isn't much to celebrate, but that is why you are you and Dennis Norfleet is the best.
In case there was any doubt as to who won this week's otherwise-barren GIFs post, the BTN knew enough to put a camera on Norfleet before a Rutgers kickoff:
The adidas "what if we made one finger different?" gloves make this look a bit more obscene than I think was intended. Regardless, infinite eligibility for Norfleet, please—this, sadly didn't make it to the broadcast:
— Boom2daBoomBoom (@Boom2daBoomBoom) October 7, 2014
Infinite, I say, and I'll stand for nothing less.
[Hit THE JUMP for a couple sacks, a couple Devin Gardner TD runs, a catch and two steps and C'MON REFS, and more.]
WELP! When you're 2-4 and a home dog to a Penn State team starting a discarded gyro and a red solo cup at guard it may be time to see what's out there in terms of possible replacements.
Previously: the Power 5 head coaches, which at this point is just DAN MULLEN DAN MULLEN DAN MULLEN.
Other 5 Head Coaches
BRONCO MENDENHALL, BYU
BASICS: 86-34 in his tenth year at BYU, with a run of four straight ten win seasons from 2006 to 2009. Before that DC at New Mexico for five years and various small jobs besides. 48.
PROS: Wins many games. Lots of HC experience for age. Comfortable with running and passing QBs. Named "Bronco" so team would have to be tough I mean you'd think right. Would bring in a lot of Samoans.
CONS: Availability questionable. Mendenhall is a Mormon from Utah and is reputedly going nowhere. Has fallen off a bit after a hot start, coming off consecutive 8-5 seasons. (He is 4-1 this year.) Recruiting questions bountiful.
OVERALL: Might as well inquire but think he would be all but impossible to pry away.
CRAIG BOHL, WYOMING
BASICS: In his first year with the Cowboys after crushing I-AA run with North Dakota State in which they won three consecutive national titles. Had been HC at NDSU since 2003 before that; during this period NDSU moved up from D-II; they had consecutive 10-1 seasons under Bohl that did not result in playoff appearances due to that. 104-32 overall at NDSU. 56.
PROS: Can beat Minnesota. Really really bald.
CONS: Age tenuous, no big time experience, just got to Wyoming.
OVERALL: Todd Graham-esque departure this would require probably puts him behind other flier candidates, as does his age.
RUFFIN MCNEILL, ECU
BASICS: ECU's head coach since 2010. .500-ish his first two years, then won went 8-5 with a 7-1 nonconference record in 2012. Went 10-3 last year with a win over UNC and a narrow loss to VT; upset VT authoritatively this year. Prior to that was Texas Tech's DC for a few year, with a bunch of LB coaching jobs before that. 55.
PROS: Has ECU rolling with a modern offense. Had amazing afro back in the day.
CONS: Old-ish, doesn't have that much track record as a head coach. Highly successful OC Lincoln Riley likely to replace him so Michigan wouldn't get to import him.
OVERALL: Seems about as risky as a coordinator without as much upside.
JIM MCELWAIN, COLORADO STATE
BASICS: In his third year at CSU. Took over a 3-9 team, had one bad year, and then went 8-6 a year ago. Currently 4-1 with wins over Power 5 outfits Colorado and Boston College. Alabama's OC for four years before that, Fresno's OC in 2007, one year as the Raiders' QB coach, and then various position jobs. 52.
PROS: Familiar with pro-style and spread concepts. Might have a smaller transition cost than other candidates depending on how similar his offense is to Nussmeier's. Promising start to HC career. FEI ranks of his Bama offenses: 16, 8, 3, 11. Spent three years at MSU so not entirely unfamiliar with the area.
CONS: Very short track record as a head coach. Success may be based on importing guys like Dee Hart from Bama more than any particular skill.
OVERALL: If CSU has a ten win season he's a guy who'd be logical to look at.
Nope. The next guy on the list was Georgia Southern's Willie Fritz.
[After THE JUMP: coordinators are waiting for your call]