Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
Brabbs reminder. Chicagoans: Phil Brabbs is having a fundraiser this weekend for the Indiana game, which Michigan will DOMINATE. Offer still stands on the Brabbs shirts, BTW: buy one, get five bucks off a second shirt in the (now severely reduced) MGoStore.
Insane rootability UPDATE! This is quality except for hated non-journalist Melanie Collins(!) introing it:
(Note: last time Melanie Collins was referenced on the blog the comments got very sad; just don't, hokay?)
Also: you've already seen Stonum kick the glasses up a notch this week, but what about Taylor Lewan's insane mustache tattoo?
The purpose of this:
"I mean it's the best icebreaker in the world. You go up to them," Lewan said, putting his finger in place to reveal the mustache, "'Miss, let's be serious, I just want to dance.'"
You will not be surprised to learn the idea originated in third grade. I mean:
"My friend thought it would be a cool idea to draw a mustache on (his finger)," Lewan said. " I was like 'this is the coolest thing I've ever seen in my life. I have to do this for real.'"
I love this team.
Kicking paint. Via a reader:
Injury watch. Another pair of big injuries hit the Big Ten this weekend, with Purdue QB Robert Marve and Penn State RT Lou Eliades tearing ACLs and getting knocked out for the year. Marve's replacement is a redshirt freshman who will further condemn Purdue to a terrible season; they're now down their top QB, RB, and WR and just lost to Toledo by 11. The Rockets were dead last in total offense going into the Purdue game; they put up 31 points and exceeded their season yardage average by 100. Purdue is bad. Someone should Yakety Sax the upcoming Purdue-Minnesota game.
Penn State winnability watch. Eliades's loss sends Penn State into a further bout of scrambling on the OL. They were already starting two(!) guys who played guard in 2009 at tackle. Now they're going with this guy:
Filling Eliades will be redshirt junior Chima Okoli, who is an offensive lineman for the first time in his career. Okoli was a full-time defensive lineman in high school and at Penn State until spring drills, when he reluctantly shifted to offense.
Penn State's starting tackles are now 6'3" and 6'4", and the position switch starter klaxons are blaring. Linebacker U on the situation:
The offensive line was already having issues before this tragedy. I lost count just how many times I pounded my fist on the bar table today when PSU only had to pick up a yard or two in third down situations and got manhandled by Temple's defensive line. … I am now taking bets on just how many of our linemen are going to join ex-punter Jeremy Boone in getting swallowed by Iowa's Adrian Clayborn next week.
Normally level-headed official-journalist-type-guy Bill Kline also sounds the alarm, albeit about a different position:
Penn State's safeties are just too slow. Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay both got burned on runs, and more than once. Andrew Dailey also was beaten. Terrelle Pryor is gonna eat them up, let alone Denard Robinson of Michigan. Can you imagine those safeties trying to even touch D-Rob? He could outrun those guys wearing a NASA spacesuit.
Yeesh. He also has some critical words for Bolden ("overthrows open receivers, holds onto the ball too long, rifles it in there harder than a sledgehammer") and actually says the PSU coaches should have inserted Kevin "Michigan Fans Are Just Bitter" Newsome at some point against the Owls.
All that sounds like overreaction to me. Even so, the Penn State game has moved into the coinflip-ish band with MSU and Iowa, even at night on the road. I remain terrified of Wisconsin even if Vegas hates them.
The Freude. TWIS is up and has the usual bout of Notre Dame self-loathing. Get your laughs in now since ND's next five games should all be easy wins—Boston College is the toughest opponent in that stretch and they also feature in TWIS because they have a 70-year-old OC named "Tranquill," which is just too easy.
Also featured is TRAIN MONKEY:
Train monkey could have called a better four down set
TRAIN MONKEY FOR WVU OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR.
BONUS! This just came down the NDN crazy pipe:
My mom says it's ok we lost because Stanford is a good team
by KLav18 (2010-09-27 16:03:17)
I want to punch her in the face and tell her that is the whole problem. We can't beat anyone good because we suck.
Is there anything more entertaining than ND Nation after a loss? Yes: Denard Robinson. But that's it.
I admire your enthusiasm. One Indiana fan's opinion of this weekend's game:
Michigan has no chance next week....
their defense doesnt exist. They barely beat an ND that IU could easily handle (ND couldnt dominate PU, which got killed by Toledo. You think Toledo would beat IU??). They barely beat UMass (FCS team?) at home.
They are not going to get 400 yards on IU.... let alone 700 yards.
Michigan are getting full of themselves, again. The BTN is helping.
Chappel will destroy them. Robinson will get some of his yards, but no one else will. And if they are sandbagging his injury, Tate Forcier's parents will have to take down his website after the game.
This is just one guy, obviously. Most other IU fans are hopeful but reasonable, or seem reasonable next to this guy, who also suggests that if the "referines" give Michigan the game again, IU should join the Big 12.
Etc.: Oregon blog Off The Pond finds AP voter John Wilner's secret ballot notes. Wilner is one of two voters to exclude Michigan, and the rest of his ballot does not make the guy out to be a genius. (The other guy not to vote for Michigan is creepy/sad cheerleader groupie Scott Wolf.) Nobody goes to Florida State games. Just 61k showed up for the Wake Forest game; they haven't topped 70k for the last five games. TV Guide droids are changing the storyline.
The Darryl Stonum fashion show marches on.
Long drives speak to the team's preparation in practice to execute. "It becomes clockwork, and I think that's what we do - we execute very well and that just goes to how well-coached we are... Wherever we are on the field, we feel like we can execute at any time." The offense is explosive. "I think it's 'no limits' when we execute."
Kelvin Grady has been working hard on the field and in the weightroom. He's catching and blocking well. "He's a lot more comfortable - as well as all of us."
This offense is fun because there are so many options. "You never know who's going to be the one having a big game."
The collapse last year is motivation to keep working hard this year. "We can't get our heads big right now. Like Coach Rod said - we can't swallow the poison."
"I think we're just together as a team... it's a family atmosphere in the locker room." Everyone is comfortable with each other, and they're able to have fun out there.
"Troy's happy... He wants to get back out there with us so bad." He'll be on the sidelines as soon as he can.
Haven't watched any Indiana film. "I'm pretty sure Indiana's a great team, and they're gonna be a great team for us to play this week."
Grady will graduate in December and start working on a Master's.
"I actually smiled" when he saw the penalty flag calling back his touchdown. "It's one of those things where - it happens." Felt good to score, even if it didn't end up counting.
Feels comfortable in the system. Has had the opportunity to play three different positions. Understanding the other positions had made him more comfortable at slot.
"I'm blessed to be able to get to different positions and learn other positions." Now he has the experience to help younger guys out.
"We're gonna go in this week and we're gonna work hard." Playing Indiana is no different than another opponent.
Avoiding team's recent struggles in Big Ten play? More guys are interested in their individual role on the team. Some guys have stepped up. "Darry Stonum has really stepped up this year for us." Mike Martin has stepped up on D, and the DB corps is getting better all the time.
Is Denard at 75% healthy faster than most QBs? "I'd take 25% Shoelace as faster than most quarterbacks." He's worked hard to step up. Devin and Tate came in and showed the depth at the position. "It's very key" to have the quality of backups Michigan has. "This game is more about patience. Obviously we have Denard that's stepped up and is doing very well for this team. But we've also got a 12-game starter as his backup." There are plenty of guys to step up.
Success on the ground: "I feel like we have weapons all over the place." It helps to have a fast QB.
"Being 1-7 is something obviously we don't want to look back on." Use it as motivation for this season.
"Denard is really humble. A really humble kid. Sometimes, I think we actually - I don't think he recognizes or knows the accolades." They tease him that he doesn't even know he's on TV every 10 minutes. "A great person, a great teammate. Humble, has great faith. It's all positive." He's not selfish - wants to see the other QBs play well.
"Did you see those glasses? They were awesome."
Starting "was the goal as a redshirt freshman." It's been a blessing to get the opportunity, glad to be out there. "You're just way more into the game." It was frustrating against Penn State last year, because there was nothing he could do. "The biggest thing is I can help change."
Working out with Barwis helped Lewan - "really just fueled the fire." Worked on strength, speed, quickness, using everything he has to his advantage.
Jersey number - "When I actually committed, one of the things was, 'I want #77.'" Didn't know much about Jake Long until after he started wearing the number in high school. Watched Long play for the Dolphins last night: "He does it all, and that's awesome." Saw Long once last year on the sidelines. "That's a very large individual."
Favorite thing about Ann Arbor is all the different people. See all sorts of interesting people.
Balancing mean streak with avoiding penalties. In high school, got probably three penalties a game. Need to be nasty, but also smart. "When I go out there, I'm trying to be as mean as possible, and make sure nobody's having a good time when they're playing against us."
Lewan's dad gives him constructive criticism after every game.
"We were 4-0 last year at this time. We've gotta keep out head down, keep playing."
The QBs are playing like seniors. "They're playing like champions, and that's awesome."
Zac Ciullo has probably never played a snap [Ed: Got in at left guard during CONESTRAVAGANZA '09], but he's a huge leader out there. He has great work ethic. "He works harder than every other person on this team."
The OL blocks equally hard for all three QBs. "I'm gonna do what I can to protect them no matter what."
At first, Lewan was bitter to lose the LT competition in camp. "It just made me work harder."
Likes left tackle because they get all the attention of the offensive linemen.
"I feel like I just turn off my head and play football" to get the mean streak going.
Ryan Van Bergen
"I think it's a more mature 4-0 team. I think it's a hungry 4-0 team. A lot of guys on this team have been 4-0 before and didn't accomplish a lot of things they wanted to ."
Chappell is an experienced QB. Have to account for him on every play, they protect him well.
Young guys on D. "I think that the play of Thomas Gordon" has been a pleasant surprise. When Carvin went down, he stepped up. They'll compete when Carvin returns.
Lewan: "He's a pretty physical guy. I'll give him credit." Joked with him a lot that he'd never get big enough to play, but that motivated him. They've exchanged blows in practice, but are still friends after. "The ceiling for him is really high. I think he's got a lot of potential."
Facing Denard in practice is helpful, because you're never going to see a guy like that in the opposition. Helps learn pursuit angles, but it's frustrating to chase him on D.
"I think it's a common misconception that if you play to your assignment, you can get to Denard. That's why we have him out there, because he breaks your assignment."
Martin - "Since he's playing in that 0 head-up on the center..." people are doubling him up, but they don't get there in time because he can get rid of the center before the guard can get over. Credits his quickness to wrestling.
RVB's role on the D is to help break down the Xs and Os for the younger guys.
RVB's mom is telling him to keep it up. "She's happy with the way we've been playing."
Lewan competes on each and every play, he shows the nasty streak in practices.
The D knew they had to come out aggressive to improve from the UMass game. Worked on tackling, but still need more improvement. "A lot better energy going into the game, and I just think we were a lot more focused."
The defense is versatile, they have a lot of different schemes, and can put guys in many positions to make plays. Can disguise things, etc.
"We definitely remember what it was like 4-0 last year. We know this year we can't get our heads big." Need to continue to progress.
"Playing at Notre Dame was a great experience." It gave the young guys a chance to get ready for a hostile atmosphere.
Indiana is a Big Ten team, the Wolverines can't look ahead to MSU. "No chance. We look at each game like it's the most important game of the season."
IU's receivers are another challenge to step up to. "They're definitely a talented bunch."
I'm basically done moving and have the internet again. It might take a little while to get caught up, but here's the weekly update with information about this past weekend's visits, and a little extra as always.
6'3", 278 lbs.
Flint, Michigan (Powers Catholic)
Danny is and will be one of the top in-state prospects for the 2012 class. He'll also be vital to Michigan as they'll be looking for a big-time defensive tackle in 2012. O'Brien was in Ann Arbor for the Bowling Green game and received some good news:
I was at the game with my Mom and Dad, and Coach Rodriguez came and talked to us right after his press conference. He said that he can't give me anything in writing until next August, but that I have a verbal offer from the University of Michigan. My Dad is a Michigan fan, so he was excited, me and my Mom were really excited too. It's a relief to know that I have that offer in hand now.
O'Brien has Michigan and Tennessee (his first offer) as his top two for now, but plans to take his time and some official visits. Michigan has had an advantage distance-wise, as Danny has been able to attend every home game so far this year. Their performance is also helping:
I really like how Coach Rod has turned the program around. Before the season everyone was talking bad about him, and that this was his last season with Michigan. He's shut everyone up about that with these wins. I also like how aggressive the defense is, and I like Mike Martin, too. Denard Robinson is obviously fun to watch also.
O'Brien has homecoming on October 9th, but said he still plans on showing up to Ann Arbor to watch Michigan take on MSU.
As a bonus, Danny is best friends with 2012 in-state DE/DT Matt Godin, who loves Michigan. Godin will also be at the MSU game, and has been talking to Danny about potentially playing together in college. If Michigan continues to have a good season then Michigan could push themselves in the lead quickly for O'Brien.
6'2", 185 lbs.
Sylvania, Ohio (Southview)
Gant is the son of former Wolverine Tony Gant, but has said in the past that he's a fan of Ohio State. Michigan has done some good things in Allen's mind both on the field and in his recruitment. He got a chance to see both in person this past weekend, and liked what he saw:
The visit was good, and I got a chance to talk with the coaches too. We mainly talked about how the season was going, how I was doing, and we talked a little about school and the recruiting process too.
Gant hasn't publicly stated a top group yet, and he told me he plans on taking his time with things so he can take in as many schools as possible:
I can't really say there's a top group yet, I'm mainly keeping my options open to anyone right now. I'm looking around the country to see what would fit me best. There's no top list, but Michigan is a school that I really like, and they'd be in the top group if there was one. I really like the football facilities, and it's a great atmosphere to play in.
Like O'Brien, Gant plans on taking his time with everything and taking visits. Allen will be one of the top prospects in Ohio for 2012, and looks to be an excellent national safety prospect as well. Michigan needs to continue what they're doing and continue the contact with Allen to stay in prime position.
- Georgia safety Avery Walls was named to the 2011 US Army All American Game. Michigan is still in a favorable position for Walls. He told me that he will be making his decision next month, after he visits Oregon this weekend, and Cal on October 9th. He's graduating early, so he wants to make sure he is accepted into his school of choice, and then he will make it public.
- Running back Demetrius Hart took a visit to Arkansas this past weekend, and will be heading out to Alabama this coming weekend with his mom. I said this on Twitter but I am, at this point, not concerned with Auburn. People were speculating on what that meant, and I think Alabama is a bigger threat at this point. The Auburn Rivals site had an article about Hart almost committing, which I can say 100% was not the case. Demetrius doesn't like to let anyone down, or hurt anyone's feelings. I'll tell you this too, there will be no more official visits after the Alabama game, but there could be another unofficial visit potentially in November. We'll see what happens.
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
Denard - "I talked to the trainers." He has a bruised knee, he'll be limited today but should be able to do everything tomorrow. You expect him to play? "Yes."
Fitzgerald Toussaint screwed up his shoulder, they're trying to determine the exact nature of the injury.
Rodriguez is optimistic Carvin Johnson should be able to play. Brandon Herron has been out with an ankle injury, but he should be able to play this week. Mike Williams is still out with (multiple) concussions. [Ed.: would not be surprised if that's it for Williams and he goes on a medical scholarship.]
Michael Shaw sprained his knee against BGSU. "He's kinda day-to-day," but should hopefully be full-go tomorrow.
Tate - "There's nothing wrong with his knee." He took a helmet shot to the quad.
"Denard is special. He's got the ability to break every play himself." The other guys are capable. "This is a physical game. Quarterbacks get hit." Runners or passers can both get hit. Run the same plays with all three QBs. They limit Denard's reps in practice by having him run plays that don't get him beat up in practice. He won't run as much. "Just blow a quicker whistle so he doesn't keep running 20 or 30 yards downfield."
Backup situation still the same? "Maybe. We'll see how they practice this week." Devin and Tate are both #2 guys to Denard. Within the next couple years, they'll have enough QB experience to do everything they want.
RBs - "Maybe the reason Denard had so many yards running is defenses were paying attention to the running backs." They've been running well since camp. A few nagging injuries have prevented RBs from being as productive as they can be. None of them are as explosive as Denard. RB rotation "We're probably gonna have to" for the rest of the year. Need to have 3 or 4 capable guys if they stay healthy. Toussaint probably doesn't get caught from behind without the knee brace. "He's faster than that." Wanted to play Toussaint more. "He's gotta be able to practice to get some confidence in him."
"Taylor [Lewan] played pretty well." A few mistakes, but good job for his first start. "Perry's playing really well." He has a toe sprain. Huyge gives flexibility there. Huyge is the first guy in at both tackle spots. They've been wanting to get Ricky Barnum into the game - he's the first guard in. Addressed Molk's penalty with him - didn't see it on coaches' film.
"Because we had the front coming back, not just the offensive line but the tight ends..." more receiver experience, QBs running it well has added another dimension. "I've been probably as pleased with what we've done in the passing game." QBs good decisions.
DL has gotten some pressure. RVB has been good, Greg Banks solid. "We're not really pleased that we're having as much depth as we'd like." Have lots of different packages to create a bit of pressure.
"Mike [Martin] has been one of the most consistent players we've had." He's been playing more than your average nose guard. "Mike's been dominant." He gets a lot of attention from opponents, but still lots of pressure.
Craig Roh is solid, and they've been able to do a lot of different things with him. "Jonas Mouton didn't have a good game against Umass, but he's played really well in all of our other games. Outstanding."
Pleasant surprises on D? "All those young DBs, playing so early." About 13 true frosh have played - most of them on D. Sometimes they're playing like true freshmen, sometimes they step up.
Hope the young defenders get some experience as the year goes on. Want to get/stay healthy there. Can play well and have success - doesn't mean they'll dominate people every game. "We expect our defense to play at a very high level, and they've got a lot of pride in doing that." Avery and Christian - "That was the most they've both played. Courtney will play a lot on special teams, too."
Does he remind players of last year? "I don't. It's in the past. Didn't you see the movie the Lion King, right?"
Michigan is sometimes a read-option team, sometimes a QB-iso team. "There's a lot more of our offense that'd we'd like to do, and are probably gonna have to do coming up."
"There's a lot of things that's cyclical in football... There's no patents on schemes, we know that." Might pick up things on opponent film that their previous opponents used against them successfully.
Gotten 8 turnovers this year, gave 2 right back. Will have to be more aggressive going forward. Played more aggressively than against UMass. "We didn't play great, but we played better." They have a physical day on Tuesdays, but in games they need to point out technique flaws to fix them. "It's hard to work [tackling] a lot during the week because you don't want to get your own guys banged up in practice."
Every year is different. "Not that we don't have some issues, because we do." Team is on the upswing, but not where they want to be yet. Will still have issues and problems, hopefully will stay healthy. "I think this year's team is executing pretty well, and playing pretty good at times. We know we have to play better."
Experienced receivers - "When you're inexperienced, it shows in certain facets, but the biggest thing it probably shows is in game adjustments." Players can help make those adjustments when they know those things.
"We had two #9s. We - I screwed that up." Officials didn't notice, but BGSU's coaches pointed it out. "Courtney's gonna, I believe, be #5. I think that number's open."
Tay Odoms penalty - "We've had quite a few discussions on a cut block" He can't go back toward the ball, seen other people not get flagged for it. "That's a clarification, and we're trying to get a couple other ones."
"We're trying to get those guys experience getting a first down in the red zone." on the last Gardner TD, when they went for it on fourth down.
"I usually defer. This is my 18th year as a head coach, and I would say except on a few rare on occasions, but I've almost always deferred." Defensive guys will be able to go out there and stop them.
New PR formation - "They were a team that had showed a lot of roll punting." Wanted to try to catch a low punt. Dileo did a nice job. Upset with ST penalties. Have to be on your toes on returns for various punt formations.
Saban mentioned MICH-Alabama "Nick knows more than I do." Both schools talking, nothing signed or delivered "Pretty interesting though, isn't it? Yeah, it's interesting."
Hoosiers only played 3 games, probably one of the healthiest teams in the Big Ten. "They probably had their best game last weekend." Added excitement going into the Big Ten for coaches and players. "Everything's gotta get cranked up a notch" in preparation.
Pistol - "It's a system. It's the same as any offense - if they execute it well, they're gonna have their moments." Last year, 1 or 2 big plays hurt MICH.
Can't blitz all the time without exposing yourself to 1-on-1s. Chappell is a veteran, need to use different methods to confuse him. Don't blow assignments to give him the cheap one. Make tackles on the short completions.
IU receivers - one of the strengths of their team. Big, athletic. MICH's young DBs - four true freshmen played. "We're gonna have to have a great week in preparing for their passing game and for those wideouts." Tandon Doss - they get the ball to him running, returning, and receiving.
IU hasn't seen a similar offense to MICH this year. They've changed defense a bit schematically. Lots of guesswork about how they'll handle our spread.
Seen some B10 games on TV. "This may be the strongest the Big Ten has been in years. For a long long time, for all 11 teams." League is tough and physical, the veterans know what league play is going to be like.
Younger guys have already played on the road - "That was the one good thing about going to Notre Dame." They've got a bit of road experience. They'll see that environment on the road for the rest of the year. Rich has never coached in Bloomington.
9/25/2010 – Michigan 65, Bowling Green 21 – 4-0
It's been a long time since this has happened, but in the aftermath of a 721-yard outburst against a I-A opponent there's no grand emotional narrative arc to relate. Last year there was a sense of relief after the Western game; the Eastern game was a reminder that sometimes Michigan plays teams obviously worse than they are and beats the pants off them and isn't that nice but sometimes the quarterback goes down and that's not nice at all. The Bowling Green game was that minus a loss to a 3-9 MAC team the year prior—i.e., a pleasant nothing in which crappy special teams play was just an opportunity to rack up more yards on offense.
There was a bout of slight indigestion when it was 21-14, but in the aftermath of an offensive performance in which Michigan scored 9 touchdowns on 11 drives (and kind of scored two more on the drives that technically came up empty) complaining about that would miss the forest for the trees. I mean, Michigan took the admonition to "STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL" from the preview literally. I can't even make yet another impassioned plea against I-AA games since Bowling Green is part of the MAC, as I did after last year's silly offensive yardage number. So let's just get to the bullets.
Well, one thing first: Tate Forcier seems pretty level-headed for a guy the internet spent most of eight months deriding as an immature quitter bound to transfer ten seconds after Denard stepped on to the field against UConn and he declared himself "out" in the aftermath.
Somehow he's still here. He could have gone. He could have put in his papers like LaLota or Turner and spent a redshirt year somewhere else and preserved a year of eligibility and had three years to compete on a two-deep that doesn't feature Denard Robinson. But he's here, picking up small children in #16 jerseys after going 12 of 12 and running around on broken plays despite being obviously gimpy.
TATE: "Hey, kid. The offense scored a touchdown on every drive I had a part in."
SMALL CHILD: "Hold me up higher so I can see Denard."
My fiancée starts rooting for the other team whenever they are obviously overmatched, something that happened seven minutes into Saturday's game. She made an exception when Forcier rolled on the field. After the game he said he loved Michigan and would never go anywhere. You can't blame him if that turns out to be untrue, but I hope he stays around. I've got a feeling Michigan is going to need him.
NON-BULLETS TOLD THE PUNTER TO GET SOME COFFEE
Denard. Fine. Jumping higher than mortals for no reason late in a blowout:
Would have liked to see him get a couple more drives and finish his day with 200 yards rushing on ten carries just on the off chance he leads Michigan to enough stunning shootout wins to hit up the Heisman ceremony with a serious chance to win, but the important thing is that he's healthy. If he doesn't stop doing this, however, I am going to die with worry.
Number two. IME, Forcier. Gardner was certainly impressive downfield but on first glance seemed to make a ton of mistakes running the zone read and even when he did get some room displayed a nasty tendency to cut everything outside like he's still in high school, turning 6-8 yard gains into 2-3 yard gains. Forcier was crisper despite his status as Michigan's nominal #3.
Devin Gardner redshirt conspiracy. Yes, I am a one man Rubicon when it comes to this: Forcier was warmly welcomed by the crowd and got another big cheer when he came off the field late, then spent the postgame press conference saying things about how he will never, ever transfer. If that is true, that could be huge for the 2014 Wolverines because it might provide an opportunity for Gardner to redshirt next year. I want my fifth year senior Gardner, dammit.
Have I been advocating for this publicly? Someone gave me a shout out on the twitters when Michigan debuted a punt formation featuring three returners, so I must have been crabbing for it at some point.
I've been grumbling vaguely about the necessity for a second returner in this space for a while, but when Michigan came out in their new punt return formation on Saturday I was livid at myself for describing exactly what Michigan should do against spread punt formations during my Thursday WTKA appearance… during the commercials. Doh.
Anyway, the situation:
- The spread punt formation has virtually erased punt returns.
- Spread punting is almost impossible to fake out of as long as you rush the punter and cover the outside guys on the line.
- A single punt returner is insufficient in an era of line-drive rugby kicks.
The response I suggested (in the commercials) and Michigan implemented exactly:
- Two cornerbacks line up over the outside guys and cover/block them.
- Six guys charge after the punter on every snap to prevent fakes and maybe block a couple punts.
- Three returners are spread across the field so that Michigan fields almost every punt and maybe gets a return or two.
A friend of mine also pointed out that since punt coverage guys are focused on the returners, not the ball, having multiple guys back there has the potential to confuse them. If the ball's coming down to Dileo and Gallon's moving upfield like he's going to field a short one, the coverage team has an unpleasant choice between splitting their duties between all three guys and teaching their guys to look up and find the ball, forcing them to take their eyes off their destination and possibly exposing them to killshot blocks.
The results in game one of the experiment were encouraging. Michigan fielded all but one punt and got some of those return things—what are they called—oh yeah—yards. Dileo looked as smooth as promised, fielding punts and making one or two guys miss before getting tackled.
I don't think Michigan can pull off the triple return threat against a conventional formation since it would be vulnerable to fakes, but against spread punt teams they should use it all the time.
The other thing I was advocating for was the deployment of a Wolverine Heavy package and we sort of saw one near the goal line. Koger and Webb lined up as H-backs, there was a tailback, and Michigan ground forward as you might expect. That's not quite Heavy, in which there are two tight ends, two H-backs, and no one in the backfield except a tank, but the flexibility provided by the H-backs should make short yardage hard to stop; I'd like it if M put one of the TEs on the line and brought in McColgan.
Corner what. The third and final thing Michigan debuted was a dime package in which the MLB and one of the DEs come off the field in favor of two additional cornerbacks on passing downs. JT Floyd dropped back to deep safety with Gordon; Kovacs stayed underneath. This also gets a thumbs up assuming the freshmen corners can cover people. This is not certain, but it's hard to imagine them being worse at it than Roh or Ezeh, no offense to either.
Here's a confusing thing: Cullen Christian has practiced with the ones in warmups two of the last three weeks. I thought he was going to start against Notre Dame because of it. But when Michigan brought in its dime it was Talbott and Avery getting the PT; Christian alternated some with Rogers. The first bit implies that Christian is the #3 corner; the second implies he's the #5. Maybe the freshmen have different responsibilities in the dime package and they're working the players in at different positions until they learn both.
Running back mess, verdict, no verdict. Shaw continues to look like the best tailback available. As long as he's running hard and finding the lanes, something he's done a much better job of lately, he's the #1 guy. Smith was okay but as the games pass it seems more and more indisputable that he's lost some burst after the ACL surgery and probably won't be full strength until 2011.
Of the four backups, Cox seemed the most impressive in limited time since Toussaint's runs came on vast, gaping holes in the line. Also, he got run down by a MAC linebacker. What's up with that, Fred Jackson? (A: he's still wearing a knee brace and is not 100%. People of twitter: I was joking.)
Preview: 2011. Late in the game we got answers to obscure personnel questions:
- What position does Brandin Hawthorne play? Spur.
- What position does Steve Watson play? Defensive end.
- Who is the primary backup at guard? Ricky Barnum.
- What's the deal with Kenny Demens? Oh, there he is.
Michigan also got a preview of its 2011 offensive line when Perry Dorrestein "got a hangnail or something." Taylor Lewan was entrenched at left tackle so Huyge came in to play on the right, and Michigan lifted Steve Schilling for Ricky Barnum. That is 99% likely to be your '11 starting OL down to the positions: Lewan-Barnum-Molk-Omameh-Huyge. They got lifted for backups on the next drive.
Pretty straightforward this week. I might have been a little overly schizophrenic in the middle section, so steer me right if that's the case.
Since this is a resume poll, and we'll have five data points for most teams next week, I intend to move to a full-resume ballot next week, with a resume chart to back up my rankings.