With guidance from Jake Butt, Ian Bunting is poised for a breakout year. [Fuller]
MGoQuestion: This seems like the year where you're going to see the field a lot more. What's the biggest thing you're doing to prepare for that?
"Just getting the little tweaks I'd say is the most important thing, especially at—the higher level you get to, whatever you do, the distance between being good and being great gets smaller and smaller. So I think that little tweaks like footwork or just understanding more of the whole concept or of the whole play or the whole offense, it's the little things like that that I'm going and I have been focusing on to get better."
MGoQuestion: Working behind a guy like Jake Butt, what's he been able to impart on you as an All-American?
"He's been very influential. He's been a great teacher, a great role model since I've gotten here. I'm very appreciative of that. We are always competing, him and me and the rest of the tight ends. We compete with each other but we also help each other. We're not a selfish group, like our room is very close-knit, but we also understand that we're always going to be going up against each other and competing with each other, and that just brings out the best in everyone."
MGoQuestion: Does it help knowing that Jim Harbaugh is going to be happy to play two, three, four tight ends?
"Yeah, we love it. That's music to our ears. Last year we had four-TE sets, so we love that. In our opinion, the more tight ends we have on the field, the better. If there's any opportunity for us to get on the field and make a positive impact on the game and help us win, we're all for it."
[inaudible] ...with everything you guys have got going, the returning offensive line, the running backs, the wide receivers.
"I think we can be very, very dynamic, very explosive, and very smart football-wise, very intellectual. There are a lot of guys that have been here for a while. Coming into the season not having to learn a whole new offense, there's definitely something to be said about that. The sky's the limit."
Do you expect the ball to be thrown your way a decent amount this year?
"That is not up to me. I don't make those decisions. But I would not complain. As a tight end, you love blocking, and you love catching the ball and doing what you can with it after you catch it. That's what the tight end does, especially nowadays, it's kind of an evolving position. It's not as much a glorified, other lineman. It's really evolved. As you can see with Jake, he's been a big part of that evolution. I don't know how many catches he had last year but he had a lot of catches and he did a lot with the ball after he caught it. We want to improve on that and take that to a whole other level this year."
Is taking it to a whole other level making rap videos?
"(Laughs) Yeah, I love doing that stuff. I did a little bit of that in high school. One of my best friends who lived two blocks away from me, Pat Foley is his name, he actually started a production company in high school, it's called Hued Productions. They're down in Atlanta now going to school and also doing that. He's great at what he does. In high school he just had a makeshift little studio, so we were just like, yeah, let's mess around and make some music. We both love music, and we did it, made a few songs, made a music video right before we all left for college. I guess people like it."
MGoQuestion: What's the reception from the rest of the team?
"They all love it. A lot of the guys were in the video, too, so that was a lot of fun. It's just something that is a passion of mine outside of football and outside of school. For now, that's going to get pushed to the side and it's going to be football. It's going to be focusing on winning football games for a while now."
MGoQuestion: It seems like with Harbaugh that blocking is the path to get on the field. (Bunting: "Yeah!") What have you done to take that next step?
"A lot of blocking, in my opinion, is footwork. We work on that all the time with each other, on the field during practice or even just when we have seven-on-seven or something, just spend a little time afterwards just working on footwork, steps for different types of blocks. As much as we like to catch the ball, we love blocking too. It's just fun. It's fun to go and hit someone."
[Hit THE JUMP for Grant Newsome discussing the difficulty of facing M's defense in practice and John O'Korn crashing my interview with Moe Ways.]
Is this man really the best coach in the Big Ten West?
The Big Ten has now had two seasons in its new alignment and a clear picture of the dynamics in each division are emerging. The East has Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State, each led by some of the best coaches in college football – the East has sent a team to the playoff two times in two tries (same as the SEC West and ACC Atlantic). While Penn State struggles in the James Franklin era, and as long as the current coaches remain at OSU, UM, and MSU, the East will likely feature those three teams at the top, in whatever order.
The West is far less certain. A year ago, Iowa was the biggest surprise in the college football world during the regular season as they strung together twelve wins to start the season. They missed the playoff after conceding a late game-winning touchdown after a long, slow, backbreaking Michigan State drive in the Big Ten championship game, and were utterly destroyed by Stanford in the Rose Bowl. The Hawkeyes won five games by a single score last season against an easy schedule, but it was still a sensational season – though it may not be able to be replicated.
Big-picture, the West is unclear, for many reasons. The only historical powerhouse in the division (Nebraska) doesn’t seem capable of attaining anywhere near that level of success in their new conference. Mike Riley certainly doesn’t seem equipped to unlock their potential. Wisconsin lost a Rose Bowl-level coach in Bret Bielema and might not be able to find another for a while. More generally, even if programs like Iowa and Northwestern can put together very solid squads every so often, they, and all the other programs in the division, lack the recruiting and the top-level coaching requisite to establish themselves as dominant enough to stay atop the division.
There’s definitely room for the right coach at the right program to own the West in the future. Right now though, it’s unpredictable and should be pretty competitive – aside from Illinois (who may have made a great hire in Lovie Smith) and Purdue (NOPE), the rest of the division should find themselves with winning records and in bowl games, though no obvious frontrunner stands out to win ten games. Odds dictate that someone probably will, but it remains to be seen which program emerges from the muddled ranks of the “pretty good” to win the West in 2016.
[Team previews after the JUMP]
If you listened to The Michigan Insider Tuesday morning you heard them run interviews with some of Michigan’s assistant coaches, including Don Brown. We thought you, our beloved readers, might like reading a transcript of what coach Brown had to say. When you finish reading you should head to The Michigan Insider’s channel on Audioboom and listen to the rest of what Sam and Ira discussed. After all, the cool people like it.
What are your impressions of Jabrill Peppers, and talk about the various ways you can line him up and use him as a linebacker/defensive back.
“Great job, that’s what we’re going to do. Talented guy, very fast. He can get from point A to point B very efficiently. Extremely intelligent football player. Has a knack for handling concepts, so, you know, I said it in the spring and I’ll just continue to say it: we’re going to give this guy a lot to do. He’s going to have different jobs based on the package. And calling him a linebacker’s probably not fair. Calling him a hybrid’s probably not fair, because we’ll ask him to do a lot of stuff. That’s the beauty of guys like him, you know. You have to set them and they give you a unique ability to cover from the linebacker position and you don’t have to substitute.”
Coming in new to this defense, how big of an advantage is it to have a defensive line with some experience and depth because I imagine it all starts there?
“Always does. You know, first off, really excited to work with coach Mattison. He does such a great job with the guys. Great football coach. But we feel like we’re going to be, with Glasgow getting back in the mix and maybe some of the guys that we brought in, we’re going to let it play out but we should be eight to nine guys deep, which certainly allows rotation. It allows guys to play fast, be fresh, and take advantage of every repetition. If they’re knocking those guys back, that’s a good thing. It certainly will help with breaking in virtually a brand new linebacker corps right across the board. So that helps. It really does.”
Do you have concerns with that? That seems to be the question with everyone as far as the linebackers--
“No, not really.”
You like the guys you have?
“I like the guys I have. Obviously we’ve talked about Jabrill. Noah Furbush is working at the Sam position as well and, you know, he’s 238 pounds running a 4.5, too. That’s a pretty good thing. He’s just not—he’s not a household name, but, you know, I feel good about him. Ben Gedeon has played some. You know, his role has definitely changed because now he’s the guy. It’s his show. He’s got to run it. We’re excited about him. Mike McCray, again…I’ll knock on my head, I guess, for wood. Let’s keep him healthy. I think he’s a very, very good football player. And I can comment on Devin Bush because he was with me in the spring. Feel like I’ve got a pair and a spare, and hopefully that just grows with the development of the guys that we have here.
“I like Wroblewski. We moved him to Mike backer about practice six, and that ‘s a hard deal. You get about nine or 10 workouts of playing Mike backer, but I see him significantly growing throughout camp and hopefully Elysee Mbem-Bosse and Josh Uche and Devin Gil and those guys will just…they’ll have great modeling because the guys in front of them know what they’re doing, so that’s a beautiful thing. And we’ll see if we can get a couple of those guys in the mix and get them going at least in some of our packages.”
You talked about the linebacker corps. How important is it for them to have the secondary that you guys have?
“Unbelievable. You know, the first thing that we talk about on the back end [is] you better get your hands dirty in the run game now. It’s not those guys up front have the run and us guys back here have the pass. It’s an 11-man deal, and they have gaps to fit, run places to fit, and I see a willing group, so that’s important. But again, when you can lean on a veteran secondary that can play coverage one-on-one, defend ‘em one on one it allows you to be extremely multiple with what you’re going to do to kind of occupy the quarterback’s attention.”
[After THE JUMP: “If I tell ya, I have to take ya out.”]
This is our Big Ten preview. It is way deeper, better researched, more serious, and longer than any other list of ~100 Big Ten players to watch. And this time it might not even contain a Michigan player since we've drafted 18 already and only 23 will start. Then again…
Oh and by reader request you can start voting now.
Previously on Draftageddon:
Rounds 1-2: A Heisman candidate QB and the reigning Thorpe winner go after two members of Michigan's secondary. (M players: Peppers, Lewis, Butt)
Rounds 3-4: An underwhelming first swing through receivers, and lots of linemen. (Chesson, Cole, Wormley, Glasgow)
Rounds 5-6: A Michigan second-teamer goes before Purdue J.J. Watt. (Charlton, Hurst)
Rounds 7-8: Hodor. (Taco, Hurst)
Rounds 9-11: We go on a mini Iowa binge, and Brian takes a true freshman (YTTF).
Rounds 12-14: A grueling, three-rounder with safeties, RBs, and MSU legacies flexing. (O'Korn, Braden).
Rounds 15-16: We break out laughing at Tommy Armstrong. (Dymonte, Kenny Allen)
Rounds 17-18: Cheese and tackles. (Magnuson, Delano Hill)
How things stand:
ACE: Round 19, Pick 1: Demetrius Cooper, defensive end, Michigan State
[Mike Mulholland | MLive.com]
OFFENSE: QB CJ Beathard (IA), RB Saquon Barkley (PSU), WR Jehu Chesson (M), SLOT Curtis Samuel (OSU), TE George Kittle (IA), OT Nick Gates (NE), OT Kodi Kieler (MSU), OG Jacob Bailey (IU), C Michael Dieter (UW), WEAPON Jabrill Peppers (M)
DEFENSE: NT Ryan Glasgow (M), DT Jake Replogle (PU), DE Sam Hubbard (OSU), DE Demetrius Cooper (MSU), MLB Josey Jewell (IA), OLB Brandon Bell (PSU), OLB/NICKEL Jabrill Peppers (M), CB Jalen Myrick (MN), CB Vayante Copeland (MSU), S Nate Gerry (NE)
SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Jabrill Peppers (M), PR Jabrill Peppers (M)
Shilique Calhoun is (finally) off to the NFL, leaving a void for someone to step in as Michigan State’s top pass-rusher. That someone is Demetrius Cooper, who was second on the Spartans with five sacks in 2015 despite not starting a game. That number will rise this year as he goes from rotation piece to full-time starter. Cooper showed what he can do when he obliterated Iowa left tackle Boone Meyers on a bull rush to all but end the Big Ten title game:
He also managed a sack against Alabama, not that it mattered. Cooper carried that momentum into the spring, proving difficult to block in each of MSU’s three spring scrimmages—he looked excellent in their spring game. There’s not a ton to go on, but what’s there is promising.
[After THE JUMP: How can you root for them? Did you even GO to Michigan State?]
[I didn’t label these MGoQuestions because it was a one-on-one interview]
Where would you say you’ve made the biggest gains from last year to this year as far as technique’s concerned?
“I think just kind of honing in on the little details of my technique. That was big for me, going back and watching past years and seeing where I need to improve and kind of honing in on the smaller details of things. Getting off blocks, finishing tackles, finishing plays were the biggest for me.”
With Don Brown coming in, are you guys going to be dropping into coverage a little bit more or is it about the same as what you’ve done in the past?
“Pretty similar. But his motto is ‘Solve your problems with aggression,’ so we’re going to get after the quarterback. We’re going to be blitzing a bunch. We had aggressive defensive coordinators in the past as well. Coach Durkin got after the quarterback as well, so it’s not too much of a change for us.”
Technique-wise, what does Coach Partridge or Coach Brown preach to you most often?
“Just really getting off blocks and finishing tackles. That’s the art of playing linebacker. You’ve got to get off blocks. You can’t stay on blocks, you can’t trade one for one. You’ve got to finish plays.”
You were saying you feel like you’ve made pretty big strides as far as shedding blocks?
“Yeah, I think so. Spring’s a big fundamental time for us and I think altogether us linebackers got a lot better in that regard.”
How do you get better at that? Is it through drills, is it through live reps, or can you study it on film? What helps the most?
“I think it’s a combination of all of them. You start with the drill. You start not against another person and you hone in on the technique, but once you get to a live period sometimes you forget all that and you fall back on your technique and you evaluate it at film [sessions] and try to improve.”
What, if any, differences are there from last year’s defense to this year’s defense as far as your assignments are concerned?
“The biggest difference?”
Yeah, if there are any.
“Pretty similar. I mean, for me personally it’s just being more vocal and making the calls as a Mike linebacker. Play a lot of man coverage. No secret there. We’ll be blitzing a lot so we’ll play a lot of man.”
[After THE JUMP: Learn how Carlo Kemp became Chris Wormley’s psedo-son and which NFL players’ film Amara Darboh watches]
So this should never ever happen again:
You've been hearing all offseason that Don Brown will ask his cornerbacks to play more "trap" zone and be more involved in run fits, most recently in Adam's interview with Zordich:
MGoQuestion: How much more important, if at all, is run support from corners going to be this season compared to last season?
“Very important because of our trap system, the system that Don Brown brought in from Boston College. Our corners are going to be very much more involved in the run game.”
However they'll mostly be doing the same stuff they did last year. Brown indeed has a Cover 2 thing he'll bring out, but most plays his defenses are in a Cover 1 ("City") or Cover 3, just like D.J. Durkin's. How will that be different?
HOW DON BROWN DEFENDS THE PERIMETER IN GENERAL
Before getting into that specific coverage we ought to understand the terminology and general thinking behind Brown's run fits. So you know how there are gaps between offensive lineman, and that these gaps are named alphabetically starting from the center. So the A gaps are between the center and the guards, the B gaps are between guards and tackles, C gaps are between tackles and tight ends, if the latter exist. From there some coaches are content to keep adding letters all the way to the sideline.
That's not how Brown names them, on pg 63-64 of the 2013 Boston College playbook, where he shows the lane responsibilities for his two base coverages: Cover 2 and Cover 1 (or 3):
CREASE: Brown defines it as the "zone run area outside the tackle box and inside the #2 receiver." The second part is not totally accurate; eligible receivers are counted from outside-in, so often enough the #2 receiver is a tight end lined up tight to the line, in which case the crease is outside of him. The point is the crease is the first big lane outside the tackle box, where a lot of zone runs take place.
ALLEY: To Brown it's the "run lane inside the corner but outside the [outside linbackers'] support window. The safety must keep his inside pad on the ball for example." In other words this is an extra crease created when there's more than one wide receiver on that side of the formation. Since it's way out there where OLBs usually can't get to, the alley usually has to go to a safety. However it's not always the case, especially once he's got his coverage hybrids out there in place of the OLBs.
OUTSIDE: The run support lane outside the wide (#1) receivers. This is where cornerbacks take if the WR doesn't just go downfield, and bubble territory.
[After the jump: How Michigan did it, and will do it]