Site notice: "Museday" (at times also known as "Musenesday" and other things), is now and hereafter "Hokepoints." Because football is about having more points. Get it?
So we noticed something when doing that pre-season draft-o-snark thing: The receivers in our conference kind of suck. More accurately I should say that there are precious few proven wideouts coming back this year. Here's what the receiver draft board looked like, not counting RBs, TEs, or moonlighting defensive backs and whatnot:
|Jared Abbrederis||WIS||6'2||188||JR*||66.6||17.0||8||20 (Brian)|
|Keenan Davis||IOWA||6'3||215||SR||59.4||14.3||4||26 (Ace)|
|Kofi Hughes||IND||6'2||210||JR||44.7||15.3||3||41 (Seth)|
|Kenny Bell||NEB||6'1||185||SO||35.5||14.4||3||57 (Seth)|
|Kain Colter||NW||6'0||190||JR||35.2||10.7||3||74 (Ace)|
|Jeremy Gallon||MICH||5'8||187||JR*||34.9||14.6||3||65 (Seth)|
|Roy Roundtree||MICH||6'0||180||SR*||27.3||18.7||2||97 (Seth)|
|Kevonte Martin-Manley||IOWA||6'0||205||SO||24.9||10.8||3||84 (Brian)|
|Devin Smith||OSU||6'1||196||SO||22.6||21.0||4||103 (Ace)|
|DeAnthony Arnett||MSU||5'11||170||SO||20.2||10.1||2||22 (Heiko)|
|Kyle Prater||NW||6'5||215||SO||0.6||6.0||0||11 (Heiko)|
|Devin Gardner||MICH||6'4||203||JR||-||-||-||19 (Heiko)|
|MarQueis Gray||MIN||6'4||250||SR||-||-||-||60 (Brian)|
They're listed here by yards per game, which Mathlete says is a better gauge for receivers than hype. But however you rank them, we took many transfers and QBs before even considering the myriad Keenan Davisii who played Avant to the Braylons of departed McNutts. And by the end of the draft most of the available options were assorted Boilermakers dudes with about 30 ypg.
Whence all the receivers in our once receiver-rich league? A few theories to test:
- Higher than normal attrition: Graduations being a relative constant, were there more juniors departing of the NFL, transfers, etc. than usual?
- Comedown from riches of 2011: Maybe the best receivers last year were inordinately productive, leaving little opportunity for the rest. Test by % of production not returning vs. previous years.
- Cascade effect from recruiting shortfalls: Perhaps there was a league-wide lull in receiver recruiting in '09-'10 that we're not feeling the effects from.
- Quarterbacks: the more they run the less they pass: This one's obvious but the conference has gone more spread-to-run, even at the top programs, meaning there's a lot fewer opportunities for WRs to show what they've got.
We dig in after THE JUMP.
MGoQuestion: If you had to play Alabama again, what parts of the game plan would you keep that worked well Saturday? What parts would you want to change?
“Very little would I change. Very little. Almost none. But that’s probably harder to grasp because of the way we executed. The game plan didn’t look very effective, but the whole thing was geared to if they loaded the box up, we were going to throw the ball. If they left the box light, we were going to run it. We ran the ball into a light box 12 times and had plus-four runs three times out of the 12. And we hit two out of 10 shots down the field. So the other alternative is to plus-one run with the quarterback. We did some of that, too, but they weren’t going to let you do that. As much as you wanted to give that a shot, that wasn’t going to happen. No one’s done that to them. Look at the numbers in the past. No one’s done that to them.”
(After the jump, Borges answers questions about Denard, Denard, Devin, Denard, and Air Force but does not answer a question about bubble screens.)
“Well, first of all, you saw the game, and obviously we weren’t pleased as a defense. A lot of things we stand for and the things we set out to do each year, we weren’t successful in a number of those situations. The biggest thing is missed tackles. We can’t have that in our defense. We had way way way too many missed tackles. And another thing that led to missed tackles as you watched the tape was we had missed techniques. We’re not good enough right now to be able to not play perfect technique, and when you don’t play great technique, somebody’s going to have to make an open field tackle or somebody’s going to have to make a tackle that you hope the ability of everything to stay inside and in front would take care of. That’s really a lot of what happened in the game.”
(After the jump, Mattison talks about the secondary, Alabama's offense, linebacker technique, Air Force's offense, and the defensive line)
The option has always been about making a defender wrong about who has the ball, thus effectively blocking him. Since you don't have to actually block him this means you can take out a slavering rage-beast with even the daintiest of skill position players.
Rich Rodriguez's innovation was taking the hazard-laden option and turning it into a simple yes-or-no handoff. The read option makes a guy wrong without requiring a pitch, and without getting your quarterback lit up time and again. Pairing that with plays that stretch the defense across the field horizontally opens up the box, forces safeties down, and creates the kind of environments that see his teams run for nearly six yards a clip.
Borges and Hoke have a different outlook on football. Last year when the inverted veer was running riot over Ohio State, they were consistently blocking the guy a Rodriguez-style offense would consider optioned off.
This worked, but I wondered if it was working because Ryan Shazier was an injured freshman who was pretty horrible in that game. It's hard not to look at what's going on with Michael Schofield in this clip and not pine for the guy to move past the OSU DE and take on Ohrian Johnson, thus likely springing Denard for another huge gain.
Last year both myself and fellow guy who does the picture paging Chris Gaerig thought that this was an execution issue that would be hammered out given enough time, but Tyler Sellhorn, a high school OL coach who frequently emails me tips and corrections, thought this was a philosophical thing:
I think Schofield and Omameh were coached to block the DE. Hoke/Borges do not like leaving unblocked defensive linemen out there. A famous unattributed coaching axiom that I am sure that Hoke/Borges believe in is: "First level defenders cause fumbles, second level defenders make tackles." To me, this is the "MANBALL" component of M's "option" game. True power running game people think like that. I think that is the reason there have been fewer really long runs (the second level has been blocked less consistently this season).
This is one philosophical difference: RR's first thought always was, "How can we mess with the safeties to get big yards when we break through the line", Hoke/Borges first thought is "How can we mess with the DL so they are less aggro (in run and pass situations) and we don't ever have a negative play." Both work well as we have seen.
The consistency with which Michigan guys were blocking the supposedly option DL was a point in his favor. At first I thought the Alabama game was the point at which this was undeniable, but now I think Alabama was blocking Michigan, not the other way around.
Optioning Nobody #1
It's Michigan's first drive. They've picked up a first down with a (horribly spotted) flare to Smith and a third down conversion from same. They come out in a two-back, three-wide set. Alabama responds with its base 3-4 set, half-rolling a safety into the box.
Michigan will run the veer. They pull Barnum (1), use Hopkins(2) as a lead blocker, and block down on the front side. This leaves the Alabama defender (3) there unblocked… for now, anyway.
Hopkins. You are not flaring out, my man. You are doing something that isn't that.
At the mesh point, Hopkins (1) has contacted the "unblocked" Alabama defensive end. This means he is now blocked. (Science!) Hopkins is also blocked. They are mutually blocking each other. Neither can go forward very easily.
This happens really fast. The DE is doing this on purpose. His goal here is two-fold: one, to force the handoff, and two to pick off one of the lead blockers.
Barnum(2) is still pulling for the front side; since the guys blocking down have actually done a pretty good job of getting push he's got a lane. Denard(3) sees the DE underneath Hopkins and gives.
And now it's over. Hopkins has indeed eliminated the Alabama DE, and Barnum reaches the hole as Smith sprints outside. Also sprinting outside: the totally unblocked Alabama LB.
Michigan's got some other problems, too, as the playside DE came through the double on the playside when Kwiatkowski released—you can see Schofield hunched over in an "oops" way right at the LOS behind Barnum. Given Smith's angle and Barnum's this is only a further indicator that Schofield got hammered on Saturday, not an actual reason the play doesn't work.
And that's all she wrote.
Who did Michigan block with Denard's legs on this play? Nobody.
[After THE JUMP: oops they did it again :( ]
Today's recruiting roundup covers last weekend's high school action, bids farewell to a couple wide receiver targets, and looks forward to a big visit weekend for... basketball?
Get That Man A Square-Toed Shoe
Michigan commits Jaron Dukes (Marion-Franklin) and Taco Charlton (Pickerington Central) faced off against each other this past weekend; Central came away with a 45-24 victory, and MGoUser Dubs was there to take in the action. If you're looking to submit a scouting report for Future Blue Originals, this is how it's done:
DE/LB Taco Charlton, 2013: Despite Marion-Frankin running away from Taco (about 80% of the time), he managed to rack up 8 tackles, and a tackle for loss (zero sacks). It was about 50/50 as to whether he had his hand down as a DE, or whether he was lined up as an OLB. Pickerington Central did show multiple fronts, ranging from a 3-3-5(!), 3-4, and a 4-3 (with Taco as DE). He even saw around 5 snaps on offense, and caught a nice PA-pass for a 15 yard touchdown in the 3rd quarter. He did leave early in the 4th quarter after an apparent shoulder injury (possibly a stinger). But after being checked with a trainer, Taco was out there after a couple of plays, only to be banned to the sideline for the rest of the game after the game was well in hand. Pickerington Central won 45-24.
As far as the "eyeball test," I must admit I was a little disappointed at Taco's lack of aggression. There were moments when a sure passing down approached, and I expected to see that pass-rushing prowess we all read about in 7 on 7's this summer, but I did not see it. The tackle guarding him was very large (some may say "fat," but I don't want to personally attack a kid), and VERY slow, so I was expecting Taco to beat him off the line, lower his shoulder, and destroy the QB. Instead, he relied more on his inside spin more than anything. I will suspect that perhaps, it was because the QB was a very good athlete, Taco was in charge of contain more than anything. Marion-Franklin sent a back to chip Taco's outside pass-rush, as well, which also would limit his opportunities. However, I feel there were times where Taco could have taken over the game but did not. I do not know if it is a motor issue, or the coaches playing him conservatively against a dual threat QB.
WR Jaron Dukes, 2013: It was very difficult for Dukes to get involved, mostly because the Marion-Franklin QB relied more on his feet than anything. The throws the QB did make were hitches, outs, slants, and screens of all sorts. That being said, Dukes still managed to haul in 5 passes (out of 8 targets) for about 42 yards. He was targeted for a TD jump-ball thrown to him early in the 1st quarter, in which he had a height advantage of at least 6 inches over the opposing defender, however, the ball was vastly under-thrown, and was broken up. Dukes also dropped a possible TD pass (at least a very large gain) during the hurry-up in the waning seconds of the 2nd. Dukes also handled the kickoff duties, which, if Michigan is looking for some sort of "Tom Dempsey style" kicker/WR hybrid, they got their man.
As far as the eyeball test goes, Dukes did not seem to show a lot of explosiveness, either off the line or to create separation against the defenders (it was kind of a soggy/muggy night, so the field may have been less-than-pristine). There were many times in which the QB was scrambling and, rather than hit that extra gear, he seemed to simply jog. Perhaps he is not used to getting much "love," as most of the passing offense derived from the slot receivers (which if true, why not put Dukes in slot?). I will say this, he did look strong after the catch, breaking a few arm tackles and showing of a pretty solid stiff-arm.
Overall, I felt that these two looked the part of a D-1 prospect. However, it is hard to tell their true potential based on their supporting cast: obviously you'll run away from Taco because his supporting DE looked half his size. And it's hard to get any love as an outside receiver when your QB cannot make the throws. So, I had to remind myself: these kids are prospects. And with that, I have great faith in the Michigan coaches that they can mold these kids into serviceable players or, hopefully, even stars.
A huge thanks to Dubs for sending this in, as well as bringing up the possibility of a Michigan wide receiver also handling kicks "Tom Dempsey style."
[Hit THE JUMP for the full recruiting roundup, including info on what could be a huge visit weekend for the basketball program.]
After a single week of play:
ALABAMA. Yeah, that'll do.
WEST VIRGINIA. I'm riding the Red Bull express until someone keeps them under sixty points, and possibly beyond that.
BIG TEN STUFF. Dammit, stupid things that exist. I dinged Wisconsin significantly from the preseason given their semi-struggles with UNI. No idea what to make of MSU's win over Boise, but raise your hand if you tackled LeVeon Bell five yards downfield. That's everyone.
VA TECH. Looked pretty janky last night, but at this point in the season a win over an actual school is worth quite a bit. Same goes for Clemson, though I think the Orange Bowl last year and Clemson's general Clemson-ness makes me leery when maybe I should not be.
SOUTH CAROLINA. Also looked janky against Vandy. I am suspicious they'll have enough offense to live up to their lofty preseason rankings.
MICHIGAN. Possibly homer overreaction to ugly loss, but I'm just looking at Michigan's lines and it's not pretty.