BTN preview. BTN had their day at Michigan and came back with some video and some nonsense—on the television a person said that Michigan would be running a lot more man coverage, which is a literal impossibility. I'm not doing a recap post this year since specifics were thin; MGoVideo has the show up if you missed it.
The most interesting bit was Howard Griffith and then the rest of the crew advocating for Ben Bredeson to start immediately at left tackle because he is "elite":
Dave Revsine did have a couple of things of interest, including a Rashan Gary-Bredeson battle:
Nation's top recruit Rashan Gary in action pic.twitter.com/uo1EAHQQ6F
— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 15, 2016
Bredeson got some rep at the UA game as the only guy who could even sort of slow Gary down, and here he sort of slows Gary down. Given the roster tackle reps for Bredeson are an inevitability—he can play it even if it's not an ideal spot and options past the starters are extremely questionable. Sufficient tackle reps to convince onlookers that Bredeson should play now are a bit of a surprise.
A bit more from Revsine:
Ben Bredeson has had a good day - has held his own against some talented guys.
— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 15, 2016
Freshmen showing up during team drills. Gary with a sack, then Eddie McDoom with a TD grab - really turned on the jets
— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 15, 2016
And yes Gerry DiNardo said some nice things. I can never take them seriously:
"When I saw them in the spring it was like a war at the line of scrimmage. It was what you imagine it looks like at Alabama and all the downhill teams."
"How Michigan football returned to its smashmouth roots" was written before the 2013 season and remains the single least correct thing ever put on paper.
Let's infer things from this still shot. Via Chris Evans:
Two favorite things pic.twitter.com/NbFuIeDTaA
— Chris Evans (@Kidnplay_abc123) August 15, 2016
That appears to be ones versus ones. Items:
- David Dawson is at right guard. Kyle Kalis was spotted in a non-contact jersey earlier in fall camp so that's probably an injury issue rather than Dawson making a move past an established starter; he appears to be the top backup option at guard.
- Evans is in an H-back spot, not at tailback, His best fit on offense is as an OSU-style H-back in the vein of Jalin Marshall or last year's version Braxton Miller. While Michigan's offense doesn't have a dedicated spot like that, they did end up with a guy more or less in that role: Jabrill Peppers. With Evans impressing and Peppers around the offense figures to use a hybrid RB/WR guy on a lot of snaps, especially because you can do a lot worse than having De'Veon Smith block for you.
- Michigan is very spread out across the defensive line and features both Wormley and Gary at defensive end. Wormley is likely to split his snaps close to evenly between DT and DE; reports that Gary will start get another bit of weight to them.
- Pretty sure that's Peppers man up over a tight end I assume is Butt.
This is a good amount of data from a still shot.
It's a competition. All those #1 jerseys handed out? It's a competition like everything else:
“The one is not really given to me. Right now, I don’t really know what I’m wearing,” Crawford explained at Michigan’s Media Day. “I’m just wearing it right now, so we’ll see. There’s a couple players that want it. Whoever gets on the field first is going to get it.”
The hybrid space player breaks out. Excellent Andy Staples article on Jabrill Peppers and his ilk:
Since 2008, when the NCAA adopted the current clock rules and spawned an era of up-tempo offense, defensive coordinators have tried with little success to devise a system that can match up with an opponent who won't allow the defense time to substitute. The answer, it turns out, wasn't a scheme but a person. What those coordinators were seeking was a human Swiss Army knife, a player who can successfully operate on any of the defense's three levels and move effortlessly among them from play to play. With such a player on the field, a 4–3 base can morph into a 4–2–5 nickel without a single substitution or presnap move to tip off the quarterback. That 4–3 could also transform into (what appears to be) a blitzing 3–4 by walking the hybrid player to the line of scrimmage. Of course, the hybrid doesn't always have to blitz when he drops deep into the box (the area that encompasses the width of the offense's down linemen and extends about five yards beyond the line of scrimmage). He might bail and cover a receiver. Or he could come screaming off the edge faster than any defensive end or linebacker an offensive tackle has ever seen.
BC's Matt Milano, FSU's Derwin James, and Duke's Jeremy Cash are also this variety of hyper athletic linebacker/mean-ass safety. Read the whole thing for a picture of what Peppers's role will be this year.
Doctor Blitz. The Ringer's Jack McCluskey on Don Brown:
BC sent so many defenders into the backfield that it produced four players with at least 14.5 tackles for loss (no other team had more than two). Yet the Eagles failed to land a single player in the top 20 in that stat — they didn’t have transcendent talents like Clemson’s Shaq Lawson (25.5 TFL, 12.5 sacks) or Penn State’s Carl Nassib (19.5 TFL, 15.5 sacks) inflating their numbers. Their best pass rusher, Matt Milano, led the team with 17.5 TFLs (tied for no. 21 nationally) and just 6.5 sacks (tied for no. 72 nationally).
And though the Eagles had been vulnerable to giving up big plays on the back end in Brown’s first few seasons in Chestnut Hill, by Year 3 they got the personnel and the scheme to the point where they were solid on both ends. In 2013, Brown’s first year helming the defense, BC gave up 47 passing plays of more than 20 yards (tied for no. 97 nationally); in his last year, it gave up just 29 (tied for no. 10).
Someone is also using CFBStats.com, and well. That stat about 20 yard pass plays is clear evidence that Brown's reputation as an attack guy is warranted, and extends even to situations where his teams are getting burned on the back end as a result. Michigan probably won't have an issue as severe as BC 2013, but the Boring Old Jarrod Wilson days are probably behind us, for good and bad.
Hype hype hype hype. Michigan's gotten a lot of it this summer and there is naturally a tendency to check on this since Michigan hasn't been a truly elite team in a long time. (The Sugar Bowl was fun, sure, but if we're being honest that team was crazy lucky.) Dan Murphy analyzes the situation an article; he also gets a telling quote from Jake Butt:
“We were struggling with toughness our first few years,” Butt said about his underclassmen days under the former coaching staff. “Down the stretch of games when our backs were against the wall we struggled and we lost a lot of games. Coach Harbaugh identified this, and he made the changes necessary and it worked for us last year. I think it will continue to pay off for us going forward.”
Brady Hoke talked a lot about toughness but he wasn't having four-hour practices.
Injuries across the league. Michigan hasn't been hit yet, knock on wood. Others have not been so fortunate:
- Northwestern lost projected starting cornerback Keith Watkins II for the year.
- Indiana slot receiver J-Shun Harris is two thirds of the way to the Drake Johnson hat trick after tearing his second ACL in two years. Try to get the forklift incident out of the way quickly, I say.
- OSU DE Darius Slade tore his achilles and is out for the year; OL Malcolm Pridgeon is out three months with a knee issue. Neither guy was expected to start; both were likely on the two-deep. Let's get a newspaper commenter's take on the situation: "I BELEIVE THE BUCKS WILL BE VERY GOOD THEY ARE UNDER THE RADAR BECAUSE OF THE POTENIAL."
- All hell broke loose on the Iowa internets due to rumors of a CJ Beathard injury that remain unconfirmed. He was spotted in a knee brace.
Thing I don't care about anymore. Harbaugh blazing people on twitter was fun over the summer, but it's more or less football season now. Now we talk about football. I do not care about Harbaugh ending an interview early because Mark Snyder has the social grace of an autistic llama on PCP, or moistly goateed Jim Rome turning that into #content, or Harbaugh spending ten seconds of his life googling "Jim Rome Jim Everett".
It does not matter. Rich Rodriguez was nicer to the media than any Michigan coach ever has been or will be and they stabbed him in the back at every opportunity. The media read Goodnight Gorilla to Brady Hoke every night and Michigan fans still abandoned the stadium in droves rather than watch his offense-type substance. I don't think it's a negative. I don't think Ty Duffy's right when he says it's a positive:
Harbaugh has spent two years playing the pied piper and dropping the occasional crumb on social media. Every media member is talking about him. Every major college football coach is answering questions about him. He’s been forced to reveal nothing. He doesn’t demand media members go along with it. He knows they will.
Everyone is talking about Michigan. Harbaugh has kept everyone’s attention deflected away from Michigan’s quarterback battle, from Jabrill Peppers being poised for a breakout year, and from Rashan Gary arriving on campus as the No. 1 overall recruit.
Harbaugh has been “handling” the media, masterfully, since he arrived in Ann Arbor. The implication is that “the media” are going to turn on Harbaugh and somehow this fact will have some grave karmic implications for him. Spoiler: it won’t.
It's nothing. It is noise made by people who don't really understand what they're watching. Andy Staples doesn't care. He can write a thing about hybrid space players. Mark Snyder has nothing other than press conferences to live on because he's never cared to learn one thing about the sport he covers even after 20-some years.
Here's the thing: a large number of people like open contempt for sports press since so often they're contemptible.
This is not a problem for most fans because given the chance they'd stuff most of the media in a broom closet.
Anyway. This admittedly longish section is the last I'll mention it unless something really amazingly tone deaf happens.
[Ed-S: Bumped to remind you this diary is basically a front page feature]
So we’re back for another year of Michigan football, and with it another year of Best and Worst columns. For a number of reasons, chief amongst them increased work responsibilities and two kids under 3, I’m not sure how deep some of these columns will be this year. In years past I usually tried to knock out 5-6k words even during a bad game, since I felt like there were always storylines and discussion points. But now, if UM crushes Hawaii by 30 and we don’t see much, I’m (probably) not going to write 500 words comparing the win to the time the Rockers beat the Hart Foundation for the WWF tag titles but were never officially recognized because it was at a live show. Sorry.
As for this column, I’m going to attack the general themes of the offseason and the expectations for the year without necessarily diving into each position group. This is mostly due to the fact that (1) the vast majority of my information is from this site anyway, and I assume Brian and co. will have MUCH deeper articles in the coming weeks, and (2) I already read most of the recent HTTV and it would devolve to cribbing notes. As always, I welcome any and all comments (including ones that point out a much better writer at another site created the conceit of this diary series).
Best: Everybody’s Back*
I never know how to start these pre-season diaries, especially when it hasn’t been a particularly momentous off-season (and yes, I know that saying 2015 was “momentous” is like asking Mary Todd how the play was). But after almost a decade of upheaval and uncertainty, of a displaced legend, a dismissed vanguard, and a depressing totem of halcyon days, UM (seems) to be on a trajectory back to the top of college football with Harbaugh at the helm.
And in many ways, it shouldn’t be surprising; the last three coaches all embodied different characteristics of what fans hope makes Michigan “Michigan”. With Carr, you had a model of consistent, sustainable if-not-excellence-at-least-really-goodness. He led the team to their first title in half a century, mostly fought OSU to a draw, and held it all together with class and dignity. He had his flaws strategically (I think he still views mobile QBs as a fad) and definitely valued loyalty over competency with a lot of his staff, but he kept UM in the upper tier of college football when lots of other programs suffered various degrees of downfalls.
[After the JUMP: The story goes...]
This is a best players of the Big Ten preview. But rather than just name 100 guys in random order, Brian demands competition and four hours of research on each subject, which will then be trashed by your peers. This is the Harbaugh way.
And you can vote now. Competition!
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. (Mone, Darboh)
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)
Rounds 19-20: Tight ends, a boring Iowa safety, and Brian finally believes a Michigan coach quote over his own eyes. (Stribling)
How things stand:
ACE: Round 21, Pick 1: Malik Hooker, safety, Ohio State
OFFENSE: QB CJ Beathard (IA), RB Saquon Barkley (PSU), WR Jehu Chesson (M), WR Noah Brown (OSU), 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), S Malik Hooker (OSU)
SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Jabrill Peppers (M), PR Jabrill Peppers (M)
Ohio State didn’t have much of a need for a third safety last fall due to the steady presences of Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell; when they did have one out there, it was Malik Hooker, who’s ready to step into a starting role as a redshirt sophomore. Hooker was one of the standout performers from OSU’s spring game, recording ten tackles and two picks. He’s in a race with three other Buckeyes (Cam Burrows, Erick Smith, and Damon Webb) for the two open safety spots; exiting the spring, he’d separated himself from the pack.
Hooker was an outstanding two-sport athlete in high school—as a senior, he was the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette male athlete of the year, their basketball player of the year, and made their football “Fabulous 22”—and that athleticism should help cover for his inexperience as he settles into a starting job. I’ll take the unknown with big upside here instead of grabbing one of MSU’s liable-to-be-benched safeties.
Ace: Uh, hopefully taking Wolverines with three of my first four picks will offset the fact that I took Spartans or Buckeyes with my last five.
[After THE JUMP: Have you ever seen MGoBloggers rip on slot bugs? This totally happened.]
You mentioned at media day that year two makes things so much easier—or more familiar, I should say. How’s it feeling?
“No, not easier. But feeling good right now. Coming off of a very good practice today, so feel good about the way our guys are working. Feel really good about the way we practiced today. There was quite a bit of good scrimmaging. Feel like our team is building a callus now that bodes very well for us. I mean, it was not. It was a little more [purulent] than about a week ago, but now it’s starting to harden. Feel good about that.”
Your quarterbacks now compared to a year ago: do you feel like they’re about where they were or in the system for a year, does that help them?
“Definitely has helped them. Right now we’re—I hate to compare—but we’re better. We’re better at that position than we were eight, nine days into camp last year.”
Have you narrowed it down? Is it down to two guys? Have a rank order?
“Yeah, not just two. I mean, Shane Morris is doing good, having a good camp. Wilton Speight’s having an outstanding camp. John O’Korn’s having a very good camp. The quarterback play’s been really good in camp, right from the first day. Been very pleased with that. They’ve…they’re completing balls, they’re running the team, they know what they’re doing. They’re competing at a good, high level. It’s been good. Yeah.
“I’m trying to think through different camps. I’ve said it to myself: this group of quarterbacks is playing really well. Better than most camps that I’ve seen from the start. Sometimes they struggle with their accuracy and struggle with different things, communicating, fumbled snaps on the ground. We haven’t been seeing that. We’ve been seeing solid play that’s improving, too. It started good and it’s getting better every day. Hope we’ll be better tomorrow than we were today, but we had a good day today.”
Are there any other positions where you’re seeing as fierce a competitive battle as you are at quarterback?
“Uh, there’s…there’s some good play. Some good—young guys are playing very well. Devin Asiasi had a heck of a day today. Michael Onwenu is somebody I’m—you know, he’s one of my favorites. Doing a heck of a good job. Ben Bredeson is doing an outstanding job. Rashan Gary is a really good football player. The young linebackers are playing really well. The young receivers are doing a heck of a good job. Chris Evans is maybe one of the most outstanding of them all. Khaleke Hudson’s doing an outstanding job. Dylan Crawford’s doing a good job. So, yeah, it’s been good. Quinn Nordin’s doing an outstanding job. Those guys, some really good players in that class have heated some of the competitive waters at multiple positions. It’s a good thing.”
How many freshmen do you expect to play this year?
“Right now it’s competitive and I don’t see any of our older guys just giving their jobs away. Don’t see that happening. Not through the nine practices. Not saying that for one minute, so it’s still to be determined. There’s some competitive, heated-up waters. More than you see on really probably any team I’ve ever been on where a group of new guys…they’re showing that they’re on track to be either starters or backup players. It’s still to be determined.
“They’ve got to do it over the course of the next couple weeks, but it’ll be exciting to watch. Some of them will, some of them won’t. The best players are going to play, regardless of class year that they’re in. As I’ve said, we’ve got a lot of veteran players who like their starting jobs. It’ll be a battle.”
Last year you waited until the first snap at Utah to reveal the starting lineup. Do you imagine that’ll be the same this season, too, with the quarterbacks and rest of the roster?
“I haven’t decided yet.”
[After THE JUMP: I guess you could say this press conference was…[/puts on sunglasses] suspended.]
Bama's Gain Is... Michigan's Gain, Too?
Alabama picked up two commits on the offensive line at the end of July, and they're expected to add five-star OT Jedrick Wills any day now. That may not seem like news that would lead a Michigan recruiting roundup, but word from multiple Bama insiders is the numbers crunch in Tuscaloosa will have a direct impact on at least one top Michigan target. Here's 247's Steve Lorenz on four-star IMG OC Cesar Ruiz:
I spoke with Hank South, our Alabama insider this morning, who confirmed that Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy Top100 offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz is NOT a take for the Crimson Tide, and barring more than one change to their current class, would not be regardless
When that news made its way over to the Scout board, their Bama insider, John Garcia Jr., confirmed he was hearing the same about Ruiz and added that four-star NY OT Isaiah Wilson could also get squeezed out by Wills:
Bama took in state OL Hunter Brannon on July 23, a kid who earned the offer at camp (UA wanted Ruiz to camp but he didn't make it). Numbers are tight and tackles are a much bigger need at this time. I'm not even sure they would take both Wills and Wilson should each want to join the class. Like with Nico Collins, a late spot may not be there for Wilson. Things can change but Bama feels good about each, the difference is Wills is much closer to ending his recruitment.
Alabama has been considered Michigan's primary competition for both Ruiz and Wilson. Ruiz said at the beginning of this month that Alabama, Michigan, and Oklahoma were tied at the top of his list; only a few days later, the Sooners landed four-star center Creed Humphrey. If Ruiz sticks to those top schools, his decision may have been made for him—he's also mentioned North Carolina as a school of interest recently but I haven't seen any indication they'd beat out Michigan.
— Zay (@_LayZay_) August 10, 2016
Wilson, meanwhile, set up official visits to Florida State (Nov. 11), Michigan (Nov. 19), and Alabama (Nov. 25), with dates for Georgia and USC to be decided based on his basketball schedule—we'll see if those latter two materialize, as Wilson plans to make a decison in December. In the aftermath of his BBQ visit, he told Sam Webb that Michigan's "family atmosphere" stood out and played it coy about where the Wolverines currently stand:
These most recent Michigan experiences reconfirmed for Wilson why he has the storied program in his top five. They’ve also caused those observing his recruitment to wonder if the Wolverines have moved up his list.
Said Wilson, “my response to that question is, Go Blue!’”
Take that how you will.
Yet another four-star lineman, CA OT Aaron Banks, is set to cut his list down to ten soon. After a better-than-expected BBQ visit, Michigan should make the cut:
"The trip to Michigan was cool," said Banks. "It was nice. It was better than I expected. The school was bigger than I expected it to be. I was with Coach (Tim) Drevno and one of his assistants. We met up with Coach (Jim) Harbaugh but didn't get to spend as much time with him. I met up with Jay Harbaugh some too. Then we went to one of the stores and got some of the new Jumpman gear."
Banks plans to enroll early. Getting him back for an official visit will be of great importance if Michigan wants to push for his commitment.
Oh, and Scout's main analyst in SEC country, Chad Simmons, is projecting that Michigan will get four-star OG TJ Slaton:
This is probably the toughest one out of this group. Slaton likes to keep to himself, a lot about his recruitment is unknown, and he could end up at a number of program. Today though, over six months out, Michigan is the favorite. The Wolverines landed his good friend, teammate Kai-Leon Herbert over the summer, and this only helps UM. Herbert made his mind up when him and Slaton were in Ann Arbor a couple of months ago. Clemson is in this, Florida State is there, and we will see what Slaton does this fall in terms of visits.
While Slaton isn't a lock, he's kept Michigan on top for a while now despite seeing other schools. There's a very real chance Michigan picks up three more elite O-line prospects, at which point one or two current commits might take a look around. No matter how it shakes out, it's hard to see a way in which Michigan doesn't have a great finish at OL.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
SPONSOR NOTES: Again, chances of this existing without Matt are somewhat less. I like to think this would be a thing in the world without the prod from Homesure Lending, but you never know. Matt's sponsoring another Football Eve this year, albeit on Thursday so it's Football Eve Eve. September 1st, 7:30,
Ashley's, first beer's on him.
[UPDATE: We've moved it to WOLVERINE STATE BREWING at 2019 West Stadium to accomodate more people]
FORMATION NOTES: I'm ready to give up on naming these things. A couple of attempts to clarify the lingo below:
This was a Peppers sweep to all the dudes. Michigan has six OL in the game and Cole is in a two point stance to the bottom of the line. This was "ace quad tight bunch" even though that doesn't encapsulate all the weirdness.
Here Michigan has two TEs and two WRs on the field, with Butt lined up in a two point stance and Chesson an inline TE:
I'm calling this "WR hide." If you see it below there's an "inline TE" named Darboh or Chesson or both.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Rudock, starting OL, and the starting WRs the whole way. Isaac did not play and Drake Johnson was limited to scattered snaps as Smith and Peppers took the large bulk of the RB snaps. Peppers also lined up in the slot, at H-back and as a wildcat QB. AJ Williams didn't get much time.
[After THE JUMP: one very big problem M tried to work around.]