[ed-Seth: A short bump ago, in a board post not far away...]
OPENING CRAWL: It has been a dark era for the Michigan Wolverines. The EVIL BUCKEMPIRE has strengthened its grip in the unending galactic rivalry. Since 2003, the rebels from Ann Arbor have failed in their attempts to foil the evil that rages from the Ohio sector.
In the midst of chaos, a young man lives out his mundane life in south Florida, completely unaware that his destiny lies in a cold land far, far away...
Denard Robinson gazes at the twin suns setting on Deerfield Beach. He ponders his football future. Who will recruit him? Will he ever get the chance to play quarterback, or will he be forced to play slot receiver in the SEC? At the height of his confusion, an unlikely sage happens upon his humble Floridian hamlet...
Who was this strange man in the cloak? Was he here to sell snake oil? Perhaps another huckster hoping to sell Denard on the virtues of becoming the next Devin Hester? Denard regarded this strange man with suspicion; yet there was something mysterious about him.
Slowly, Denard learned that his powers may be of use to some greater cause. In fact, should he learn 'the ways of the spread', he could become a powerful agent for good in the Big Ten Sector, where the great Civil War had been raging. Regional governors like Grand Moff Tressel have taken control, seizing Rose Bowl bids while the Rebellion lay in ruins. Denard slowly warmed up to the notion, but what finally sold him were the immortal words of Jedi Master Rodriguez... "Denard," he said, his eyes pleading, "Our helmet's got wings." From that moment, Denard's fate was sealed.
Under Master Rod's tutelage, Denard learned the vagaries of the spread and the great power it wielded. He flourished - his technique and natural instincts were unsurpassed by any who came before him. However, in a chilling example of Jedi Council infighting, Master Brandon struck down Master Rod before Denard could finish his training. He felt lost, completely rudderless and out to sea. He was not ready to face his nemesis, yet he lacked any means of discovering his true powers. Disquieting weeks followed until a new master, a New Hoke, brought a staff to Ann Arbor capable of releasing Denard's true potential.
Denard immediately began training in earnest. "You must let go of the spread, Denard..." said Master Borges, riding atop his back in the sweltering heat of Al Glick Fieldhouse. Denard faced many temptations (possible transfers, interceptions, and the like), but it was the steadfast support of his biggest fan that kept him committed to excellence. At last, he felt prepared to fire the shot heard 'round the country...
Meanwhile in their Death Star hovering over metropolitan Columbus, Darth Fickell and Emporer Meyer plotted the young man's destruction. "Force him to pass, Lord Fickell..." said Urban. "His inaccuracy will be his undoing. I'm afraid he'll find our secondary quite.. OPERATIONAL when we arrive in Ann Arbor." Darth Fickell cackled knowingly and said "yes, yes...", for 'yes' was the only word he knew.
The night before the showdown, Lord Hoke briefed the Wolverine pilots on the attack plan. It would be complex, a mix of spread and pro-style elements combined. Shaking his head in disbelief, young Devin Gardner said, "There's no way we can fit it into throwing lanes that small. It's impossible, even for a computer." Denard just smiled his bright, knowing smile... "It's not impossible! I used to bullseye patterns like that back in Deerfield Beach, and they're not much bigger than two meters." Brady looked upon his quarterback with complete pride and confidence; he had become a master in his own right.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2011: It's go time. Denard leads the Wolverine convoy into battle over the skies of Ann Arbor. In the distance, he saw the hovering monolith that was the Buckeye-shaped Death Star. He kicked his engine into overdrive, employing the quasi-pro-style Borges techniques to a tee. The battle raged on, with many casualties on both sides.
"Lord Fickell," said Emporer Meyer, watching the proceedings from the comfort of a luxury box. "You must handle this young one yourself. TO YOUR SHIP, FICKELL!"
"Yes, yes!" came the reply, as Fickell trudged down the hall to his ship, occasionally bumping into walls/inanimate objects.
Fickell was hot on young Robinson's tail, breathing the fumes of his modified Buckeye Fighter's sublight engines. Ohio was ahead, with only two minutes until the Death Star would be in-range of Ann Arbor and her noble citizens. Things began to look bleak as Fickell peppered young Denard with laser blasts across his hull. "Yes, yes..." Fickell howled.
At the height of the madness, with only seconds remaining, Borges called a pass play in the red zone... Denard hesitated for a moment, knowing the play would not work. He simply wasn't a pocket passer... He needed to reach deeply into the force and discover its will. Suddenly, a voice from the past rang out to him. "Close your eyes, Denard," the familiar voice whispered in its southern twang. "Let go. Use the spread, Denard." Without thinking, Denard called up his last reserves of energy, using evasive maneuvers to deftly dodge Fickell's blasts. At last, he could see the Death Star's exhaust port.
VICTORY! VICTORY! VICTORY! The combined sounds of liberty and glory drowned out the sobs of the cursed state of Ohio. Denard had done it. From the desolate sands of Deerfield Beach, he had followed his destiny and finally realized his true purpose... To unseat the Buckeyes from their throne of power.
After the battle, Denard and Hoke were honored for their valor. And while Denard loved Coach Hoke and was certain of the Rebellion's bright future, he couldn't help but think back to the strange Master who brought him to Ann Arbor to begin with, who had opened his eyes to a new world.
Before Denard appeared a holy sight, the beautiful marriage of past, present, and future. The glory of the Force spread out before him like a brightly-spangled mosaic... He had become, once and for all, a Michigan Legend.
Winner gets a box canyon. And a FLAG! (I think. I've only seen the first 2 seasons)
Author identity reminder: Seth=Misopogon. Misopogon=Seth. Everyone else was using their names, so hi. Apologies for any confusion.
Gratuitous promotion of my thing again: Adopt a Shelter is a week from Saturday. Last chance if you want to help. I got a photographer (Thanks Scott!) Also thank you to everyone who has donated gifts so far—Thanksgiving guests were remarking at the awesome pile of loot, which led to lots of bragging about the blog all night. WIN! Bigger win for the kids.
LATE BREAKING DIARIST OF THE WEEK SCREW THE REST OF YOU GUYS THIS IS ALMOST THE AWESOMEST THING EVER EXCEPT HE DOESN'T SPELL 'CONVOY' RIGHT:
Also I left out Lordfoul's HFT. /Update.
Scouting Ohio: They are in totally different colors than we are; therefore they are evil and must be stopped. For this we turn to Blue Team Arbor Gulch Commander Leonard L. Church.
Brhino: Sir, we analyzed the performance of known Buckeyes versus common enemies and found them quite lacking on all fronts, though one of those was in part due to a complete Bauserman malfunction.
Brhino: Not likely sir. We do have reports of mysterious markings of unknown origin on the individual known as Braxton, but Gordon Gee assured us that every guy on the team with ink who hasn't been caught yet is completely innocent, and concluded that no further investigation is necessary.
BlueSeoul: We found much, sir, and may I say your rendering has improved dramatically over successive versions of the Halo series.
BlueSeoul: Well I watched seven games, and wrote two bumped diaries on recent rounds versus Penn State and versus Purdue, both losses. They have an extensive arsenal and much talent, but they also lack any sort of intelligence.
BlueSeoul: No, I mean they're a bunch of dumbfucks who jump around randomly and run each other over with the Warthog, or the Puma, or whatever you call that Brewster guy.
MiS: Well you know I track upsets but I don't think Ohio's got what it takes. They're basically Nebraska with better players and dumber coaches.
THE_KNOWLEDGE: Michigan will win, and win a BCS game. THE_KNOWLEDGE called Urban Meyer. TOP FRIEND announcement coming soon. This is all very important.
- Yesman2221: Michigan hockey should beat Northeastern and Union but that would entail scoring actual goal things.
- Enjoy Life: The curve finally went in the right direction (since B1G season started). Special teams turnovers for all of the points!ST3's Inside the Box Score: Lolcats! Gibbons 1/2 on 42-yarders this week. Josh Furman blocked a punt. Lolcats!
- Oriental Andrew's Bowl Projectsions: Ohhh sugar sugar, da nah nah nah nah nah. Vs. the Cougars, da nah nah nah nah nah.
- Wolverine In Exile's BCS Standings: Chaos!
- Stubob's Ugly Game of the Week: Say this with me: Eastern Michigan Eagles: bowl eligible? (They lost to NIU today and have two I-AA schools so 6-6=no bowl)
- Jeff's Pick Six: Brooklyn Blue is still on top. His six are Oklahoma, Stanford, VT, MSU, USC, and Houston. If that Sugar prediction comes true the guys behind him can catch up.
- Lanyard Program's mini-program has supplanted all other mini programs for two important reasons. First, it's slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words BEAT OHIO printed in large friendly letters on its cover.
- Of Chrisesous Logical Danger moved the Argh Denard picture page.
: In appreciation for all of their hard work this season, the hardworking weekly guys are your co-Diarists of the Week. Next we will move on to a wallpaper and some good stuff on the board, but first, jumping fest.
ALL: JUMPING FEST!
survivors are few and wan
This year's Jack Shaftoe
The king of the vagabonds
Hair of Norse legend
Two touchdowns, one game
then detached, floating to ground
a serene finish
Ryan Van Bergen
Axes ring, crash and thump
Poplars topple, maples fall
Van Bergen stands, still
Fall takes leaves from trees
and leaves defensive tackle
face down, defeated
Spread fullback in bloom
Your existential crisis
will be no problem
Except insofar as he's
Jared Van Slyke
Things can be worse than
saying "yes, yes, that Van Slyke":
Michael Jackson's kid
Ankle, wrist, ankle
people who call you "Woolfork"
TWoolf ain't easy
Throw it up, way up
in clouds a man emerges
hands grasping his prize
Suns collide, stars burst
the duality of man
Picked M over O
In a rare, rare time for that
The earth moves in waves
There is a man, then a gap,
then there is nothing
To take the fail rays
Head on for four of five years
BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE
occasionally jet straight
BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE
The first mountain goat
Survived Northwestern '08
So, I hear you're a
Long snapper. How's that going?
Cool, cool. I am a—
North Korea DPR
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor MI|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, November 26th 2011|
|THE LINE||Michigan –7.5|
|TELEVISION||National on ABC|
cloudy, mid-50s(!) minimal chance of rain
So… before we even get into the breakdowns, yes, Opponent is bad. Their wins are over…
- Akron, Colorado, and Indiana (horrendous teams that will finish with double digit losses)
- Toledo (a good MAC team that still managed to lose to 'Cuse; Ohio State was one good zone read decision away from losing)
- Illinois (Illinois)
- Wisconsin (uh…)
No, the Wisconsin win makes no sense. They've lost to 6-5 Miami and 5-6 Purdue. They've had some relatively good outings this season but strip away the scarlet and gray and this looks like Purdue again. I know, I know.
Run Offense vs Cleveland State
Ryan Shazier will be a source of big plays both ways
Jackrabbits fans were bracing for impact on offense as soon as Terrelle Pryor's eligiblity went poof, but the Tressel fallout has unexpectedly claimed big chunks of the defense's effectiveness as well. Yeah, they lost a lot of starters. But they are still the vaunted SUNY-Stonybrook defense. They reload.
Not so much this year. They've dropped to 41st nationally defending the run. The game-by-game is… variable.
[Note: for purposes of this preview Colorado is not counted as real opponent.]
Murderous performances against MSU, Purdue, and Illinois are paired with eh outings against Indiana and Wisconsin and crap versus Miami, Nebraska, and PSU. I don't know what to do with that. Spread and pro-style are all mixed together; good and bad are mixed together.
If there's a trend it's one of struggles against the spread. Penn State deployed a wildcat look that tore it up in the first half of that game; when forced away from that they imploded. Nebraska: spread option, MSU: pro-style. But Miami is basically pro-style—certainly was against OSU—and Purdue is spread. Emphasis on the "if" in that sentence about trends.
OSU has some assets. John Simon is like Mike Martin… but fast(!). Nominally a DT, he has been a crazy effective DE this year. His game is built on penetration and he is their leader in TFLs(13.5) and sacks(6). Jonathan Hankins [insert rant about RR DT recruiting and/or Archie Collins here] has 10 TFLs and three sacks. That's a defensive line's worth of production from two guys.
That's kind of where it stops, though. At least, relative to your average Ferris State defense. They've still got plenty of TFLs and whatnot… just not quite as many as usual. The other two starters on the DL have 4 TFLs between them; there is no standout linebacker unless it's newcomer Ryan Shazier. Shazier's nominally Andrew Sweat's backup but has been making plays in limited time all year. Think Lavonte David, except bigger. With Sweat questionable after a nasty concussion suffered against Purdue, Shazier will be a pain if he's in the right place. That is an if. While Shazier made a ton of highlight reel tackles against Penn State, it's the ones he didn't make that let the Nittany Lions rack up those gaudy numbers above.
As for Michigan, they recovered from an alarming outing against Iowa to put up back to back 200 yard games. Their performance against Illinois (which went out the next week and held Wisconsin under 300 yards only to be betrayed by their turnover-prone offense) was more impressive statistically. The Nebraska game saw a comedy of errors on Denard Robinson's part…
Three yard loss because Denard did not pitch
…hold down a series of plays that would have worked if he'd pulled or pitched. The blocking was quality all around, Fitzgerald Toussaint locked down the starting tailback job, and Borges seems settled on a mostly zone shotgun attack that fits the personnel. The addition of an H-back headed for the backside end has neutralized the double-A-gap blitzes that annihilated Michigan's offense in East Lansing.
So they'll probably be good. Michigan will have to more effectively constrain the Ohio State defense than they did Nebraska—it's much higher quality. Those runs that were slipping through the line despite Denard making an iffy decision may not be there, and then you've just got the litany of 3, 4, 0, –2 that might as well be run from under center.
Key Matchup: Denard decisionmaking and/or actually giving him decisions to make. Nebraska didn't exactly lay down a blueprint for stopping the Michigan offense but they did hint that you can cheat in certain ways without getting punished. Michigan will either have to read or call their way out of that.
Pass Offense vs IUPUI
Anyone attempting to scout a Big Ten passing defense runs up against a familiar problem: where are the quarterbacks? The Minutemen defense has gone up against few passers of any quality.
They gave up near-identical 7.8 YPA days to Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins… and that's about it as far as threatening passers. The non-threatening variety:
- Taylor Martinez averaged 8.7 YPA with two TD and one INT
- Nathan Scheelhaase averaged 5 YPA with one TD and two INT
- Tre Roberson averaged 8.3 YPA with one TD and one INT
- Purdue's two-headed outfit averaged 6.3 YPA with an INT
- Matt McGloin was indistinguishable from Braxton Miller with 4.9 YPA and an INT
With Cousins also throwing a couple picks, plan on Robinson getting intercepted at least once. Yes, you were already planning on that.
Limiting volume seems like a good plan here. The quality passers got away with attempts in the mid-30s; Martinez and Roberson succeeded on 22 and 21 attempts, respectively. Scheelhaase and the Purdue outfit are not quality passers and got up into the 30s. The effect is apparent in their YPA. (McGloin had limited attempts but plays for the pro-style tire fire that is the Penn State offense and should probably be ignored.)
The secondary is youthful and iffy, at least by the high standards in Columbus. Travis Howard and Bradley Roby are the corners; Howard was expected to be a lockdown type and has not. He's kind of like JT Floyd, actually. Redshirt freshman Bradley Roby has been okay to good, considering his age. The real issue is in the safeties.
When is the last time you saw Kovacs helplessly wave at a running back headed for six? GERG was roving the sidelines with a beaver. CJ Barnett is a redshirt sophomore who's been at fault on a number of big plays against this year; Orihan Johnson has kinda sort a lost his job to Christian Bryant at the other spot. Bryant is 190 pounds. They'll shuffle both guys regularly; they can all be exploited. Barnett will make great plays in coverage when he's got his head on straight. These guys are all athletes with high ceilings. They just haven't hit them because they're inexperienced.
This might be a game in which an oh noes type action comes back. Michigan's all but shelved it the last few weeks after opponents started planning for it. If Shazier or the safeties or one of the other linebackers starts getting nosy, play action could re-emerge.
On the other side of the ball, Denard Robinson has emerged from a shaky period early to reclaim his situational accuracy and not entirely terrible reads. He is a danger to both teams when he drops back; this is an improvement from early in the year. Borges has slowly hacked out passes that aren't zings over the middle or bombs and Denard has actually started setting his feet when he throws. On the run, even. Sometimes.
Michigan's offensive line has been pretty good in pass protection but Mark Huyge is potentially exploitable by a quality end like Simon; Michigan did miss third-down back Vincent Smith against Nebraska. Fitzgerald Toussaint is a much better runner but his blitz pickups make you understand why coaches hate playing young running backs on passing downs.
M receivers… eh. They're all right.
Key Matchup: OL versus Simon and blitzers. Pressure Denard and you will be rewarded with bad decisions. Very bad decisions. Pick up six, though, and it's trouble for a defense that can either cover deep or prevent scrambles—not both.
Run Defense vs Creighton
This will be a test after a couple weeks running up against flimsy offensive lines down important starters. This week Michigan runs into an intact, veteran line with lots of power (and admittedly crappy coaching). Senior Mike Brewster is an NFL prospect who was getting touted as a potential Rimington winner preseason. That's probably out of the question after snapping the ball into his own butt three times last weekend.
He's still a massive upgrade on the guys Mike Martin has been tossing around like ragdolls the past three weeks.
Brewster is flanked by touted recruits. At tackle, McGuffie buddy JB Shugarts is a false-start machine but when he missed the Purdue game his replacement was a sieve; they don't have alternatives and he generally shoves the guy in front of him so there he is. Mike Adams returned from his tatgate suspension and quietly re-emerged as an excellent LT. On the interior a couple of sophomores hold down the guard spots.
Ohio State runs "Dave"—their name for cromagnon iso football—out of the I, matching it with counters and the occasional outside pitch. From the shotgun and pistol they run a lot of zone on which confusion can abound. If Michigan's linebackers are suddenly more effective in this game it's probably an environmental effect more than anything else. They use Miller as a runner whenever, wherever, with any passing down a potential quarterback draw. Third and fifteen? Honey Bollman don't care.
They also like speed option; the QB never pitches on theirs, either. He's getting better at actually running the damn play, but will go off script on a whim:
There's only so much you can do to prepare for a quarterback like this, because Miller won't always do what is intended on a given play, making it really difficult for the defense to stuff a play even when making the proper read. He'll reverse field, go through the wrong gap, wait around in the backfield until he finds a crease—there's just no guessing where he is going to go. The best way to defend this is through dominant defensive line play, and luckily Michigan has had that in spades recently—it's going to take a big day from the entire line, as well as the linebackers, to keep Miller from amassing 100 yards.
Contain, fits, contain and fits. Overrunning things or getting out of your lane is a big play waiting to happen. Stay responsible and eventually Miller will go down to a gang tackle.
Defensive line penetration will be important. Penetration hacks off potential running lanes and allows cleanup defenders to focus on a smaller section of the field that's usually away from blocking angles. Second level defenders should be cautious; linemen should get into the backfield and be the first guy Miller makes miss.
Key Matchup: Martin vs Brewster, et al. The touted one on one matchup between Brewster and Martin may not develop unless OSU tries to run to him on the zone. Most teams choose to run away from him, leaving the backside guard the man in question. Either way, if Michigan can stone inside runs with regularity the resulting passing downs will be rewarding. Martin can make that happen by himself, or he can force the ballcarrier to his friends.
Pass Defense vs Eastern Washington
Braxton Miller attempts in games he's played the whole way: 4, 12, 11, 18, 17. Last week against Penn State he got the ball back down six with seven minutes left and proceeded to Zook his way down the field, burning 5:28 on a drive that ended on downs at the Penn State 32. Albion does not throw the ball much.
They do call a lot more passes than they actually throw. Many end in Miller scrambles; others end in sacks. Despite having just 196 attempts to their name (115th nationally) they are is 116th in sacks allowed. That is an incredible combination of incompetence. While the frequency of Miller scrambles and existence of Joe Bauserman complicate things, doing a simple [sacks / (passing attempts + sacks)] calculation gets you an astounding 16%. Great googly moogly.
This isn't all Miller's fault. He's been saddled with an untenably young receiving corps that got untenably younger when Verlon Reed was lost for the year attempting to field an onside kick in a 10-7 loss to MSU. Freshman Devin Smith is the leading receiver in terms of yardage and he's caught three passes in the Big Ten season. Sophomore Corey Brown (Not That Corey Brown) is next, and it appears that everyone in Buckeye comment threads hates him. Jake Stoneburner is a senior and the kind of guy Al Borges would turn into an All American, but he goes to New Jersey Institute of Technology and therefore has 13 catches. (Seven have gone for touchdowns. PROTIP: cover Stoneburner in redzone.)
The inexplicable return of DeVier Posey complicates matters. Anyone who saw him make that one-handed spear along the sidelines knows he's pretty good. Unlike the rest of the receiving corps, he's veteran. Last year he had 848 yards. He had four catches for 66 yards against Penn State and could—probably should—become Florida Gulf Coast's leading receiver before halftime of the Motor City Bowl.
Since the biggest threat on Shawnee State's passing plays is still Miller's legs, opponents have prioritized containment. Miller generally goes through one read, two at most, and then starts wandering around MAKING PLAYS. Wisconsin can attest that he does keep his head up looking for downfield opportunities on the roll; overplaying his legs can result in big plays that are even more disastrous against an offense hovering in the triple digits nationally.
Key Matchup: Mattison blitz schemes versus Braxton Miller's scrambling. Taylor Martinez had a wide open QB draw he cut back into defenders; that draw was open because a Michigan okie scheme got RPSed. Miller is a more dangerous runner and when Michigan sends its wildly unbalanced zone blitzes there will be lanes for Miller. Having a plan to combat those will help Michigan hold Miller under the 100 yards that seem a requirement for a win.
This was supposed to be a huge advantage for Nebraska last week; instead the Cornhuskers' various debacles saw them fall from 5th to 14th in FEI's special teams rankings. This week it's much the same. LSSU's traditionally strong special teams are holding serve.
While nothing excels except maybe kickoff returns, all five phases are above average. Kicker Drew Basil is 13 of 16 on the year. Punter Ben Buchanon's net is held down by a lot of derpy short-field punts and he's still 43rd in raw yardage. Jordan Hall is a quality returner on both kicks and punts; he's spearheaded their run to 7th nationally in kickoff returns without springing a long touchdown. While Michigan's gotten better in the KO return department since early in the season this is still a matchup of concern.
Michigan is the usual except their kicker is not a tire fire and punt returner Jeremy Gallon has come on in recent weeks. He's way more reliable than he used to be and he's even getting some yards here and there.
Key Matchup: Gibbons you put it through the uprights?
Tacopants Bowl? Tacopants Bowl.
- Wright State is teeing off on Toussaint without riposte.
- Denard can't get the time that makes him effective because of Simon.
- Miller goes all Troy Smith 2004.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Mattison has a package that gets after Miller without opening up too much in the way of scrambles.
- Borges gets Shazier running really fast in the wrong direction.
- Clock reads 00:00 and Michigan has more points.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 (Baseline 5; +1 for I Think We May Have Not Won Many Games Against This Team In The Recent Past, Let Me Check, +1 for OH GOD I CHECKED, –1 for 118th In Passing Offense, Man, –1 for Ding Dong The Tressel's Dead, –1 for And Their Head Coach Is Now Adam Sandler, –1 for OY OY OY Seems More Concentrated On The Opposing Sideline After The Last Two Weeks, +1 for Denard Turnover Fiesta AY AY AY, –1 for Comparative Scores Against Purdue, Illinois, Nebraska, MSU, +1 for General Principles.)
Desperate need to win level: 11 (Baseline 5; +1 for This Garbage Stops Now, +1 for BCS Bid On The Line, +1 for Officially Puts League On Notice In Year One, +1 for This Opponent Sucks And Has Sucked All Year, +1 for Seriously, Screw These Bastards And Their Crying About The Immense Damage Losing Tressel Has Caused Them, +1 for This One Goes To 11.)
Loss will cause me to... drink.
Win will cause me to... I don't even know anymore. Michigan has never won The Game in the history of this blog.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
It seems like Miller and company can only move the ball serious distances in the event of hijinks, major Michigan mistakes, and awesome plays that Miller and Herron and Posey all have the capability to turn in. Major Michigan mistakes have been minimal this year and Bollman has not seemed capable of forcing them in opponents. So Ohio State points come from their one or two sustained drives, the turnover(s) you know are coming from Michigan, and…?
That puts them in a range from 7 to 20, the bottom of which seems more likely than the top. Don't give up a cheap long one and Michigan seems good. This is where the power of Kovacs is powerful.
As for Michigan's offense, the assumption is they'll keep it tight for the same reasons Tressel kept it tight in the 2007 edition of the Game. When the opponent doesn't seem capable of scoring unless you help it and you have a run offense that will eventually find a crack and break it big, you just probe until you break it open. We'll see some deep balls mixed in because Borges gets the shakes if a quarter goes by without him seeing a ball at eye level, but it will be a tortoise sort of day. They'll do all right and grind it out. Turnover fiesta is the main danger.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Combined passing attempts go under 40.
- Borges has some new stuff saved for this very event.
- Fitz Toussaint goes over 100 again at a 5 YPC clip.
- Michigan, 24-12
This week on
Thursday Friday Recruitin' I resist the urge to type "Beat Ohio" over and over again (and fail), good news rolls in on the Bri'onte Dunn front, Pharaoh Brown clarifies his stance on Michigan, and Billy Price looks to form a blue-chip D-line. Usual request: Please let me know if you have any comments, criticism, suggestions, etc.—as always, I'll be reading the comments, and you can also reach me on Twitter or via email, where I'll also encourage you to send any recruiting articles of interest that you think I should include for the next week's edition.
Bri'onte Dunn Chooses the Correct Sideline, Beat Ohio
Last week, blue-chip running back and Ohio State commit Bri'onte Dunn visited Michigan to witness the Wolverines thrash Nebraska while being heavily recruited by commits like Shane Morris and his cousin Dymonte Thomas—witness the photo on the right as proof. That was a good sign in and of itself, and then Dunn came through with a major announcement trifecta—he'll be back to visit Michigan again for the Ohio State game, he once again plans on graduating early, and he plans to take an official visit to Michigan after the season with (soon to be fellow?) commit and Buckeye defector Kyle Kalis. Couple this with the almost-certain assumption that Urban Meyer will be the next Ohio State coach, and we've got a situation here:
I don't know if [Dunn] realizes how symbolic [this weekend's visit] is. To me it's very symbolic when you're visiting a rival school when they're playing the school you're committed to and you're sitting on the rival sideline. To me, that is huge. It's very symbolic. This is trending Michigan's way.
The current news is that Urban Meyer will be possibly the next head coach at Ohio State — and I think he will be — I think that also pushes Brionte Dunn a little towards Michigan because when he was a younger player, Florida tried to recruit him under Urban Meyer. (Dunn) wanted no part of the Urban Meyer offense. So while Meyer to Ohio State will really affect Ohio State positively in most recruiting cases, in this case, I think it's not positive at all.
Like I said, if you put it together in your head, you'd say Michigan's sitting in pretty good shape here with Brionte Dunn. You never know, but it sure seems to be trending their way.
That's Scout analyst Bill Greene from Sam Webb's latest DetNews piece, an info-packed Q&A in which Greene and Allen Trieu pretty much do everything except proclaim the Wolverines as an outright leader for Dunn, but it's nearly impossible not to read between the lines on this one. I mean, he's going to be on Michigan's sideline when they play Ohio State. I'm not sure I need to say much more.
Meanwhile, Michigan could get a boost in their offensive line recruiting thanks to two five-stars (depending on the service you're using) taking in visits this weekend, as Chicago Simeon's Jordan Diamond announced via Twitter last night that he was en route to Ann Arbor, and Puyallup (WA) OL Josh Garnett will be at the game as well ($, info in header). Diamond's visit comes as a surprise—he's been pretty quiet lately and some assumed he had fallen off Michigan's radar or taken greater interest in other schools, but it appears he's just taking things slow, and an impromptu appearance in Ann Arbor is a good sign that Michigan is still very much in the mix for him. You could say the same about Garnett, though it still appears like it will be difficult to pry him from the West Coast—Stanford has made a strong push of late, and he's already been admitted there.
If you were hoping for a quick end to Oaks Christian (CA) WR Jordan Payton's recruitment, despite him pushing back his announcement well beyond his original date, well, don't hold your breath ($):
A one time, and early commit, to USC, Payton is now in no rush to make a choice.
“Honestly, I won’t commit this time until I feel right about a school,” said Payton. “It could be at any time and it could be a while. It’s whenever I talk about it with my family and we just feel like it’s ready. I’m going to take the Cal visit, though, so I won’t be deciding before then.”
A U.S. Army All-American, Payton said he isn’t sure if he’ll have a decision by the time he makes it to San Antonio, but he doesn’t plan to announce then.
It's tough to blame Payton for taking his time after already committing to USC and then re-evaluating—he wants to make sure he makes the right decision and sticks to it this time around. After Michigan appeared to be the clear leader recently, however, that may change the longer he plays out his recruitment if it didn't already after his Notre Dame visit. We'll just have to wait and see.
Quickly: Abandon hope, ye who covet Shaq Thompson—he has scrapped a planned December official to Michigan in favor of one to Utah, and it's pretty clear he'll be staying out west (Cal looks to be the favorite, as they've been the constant in an ever-changing list of leaders); the Wolverines are firmly in Wes Brown's top five, and he has high praise for the coaching staff and a good connection with Blake Countess, but weather may factor into his decision, which probably wouldn't bode well for M; Stefon Diggs is featured as the Recruit of the Week on Rivals, though Michigan is strangely not mentioned (by Mike Farrell, not Diggs) when discussing the several potential landing spots for the five-star wideout; could Michigan be looking at a JuCo (and Wolverine legacy) in quarterback Turner Baty? ($, info in header); happy trails to Adolphus Washington (Ohio State and Dwayne Stanford (Oregon)—neither showed much interest in Michigan lately, but Washington will not be fun to play against in upcoming years.
Pharaoh Brown Clarifies, Beat Ohio
For everybody who wants to know I never de-committed from michigan. They said they don't consider me a commit b/c my OV that's their policyYes I am changing my position and will be weighing all my options
This has been discussed ad nauseam on the board this week, but I'd be surprised if Brown ends up back in this class—Michigan is still after several big-name recruits, and four-star TE Taylor McNamara is considering taking an official visit next month, plus Brown would have to mend some fences with the coaches before regaining their trust. If he makes it back in the fold, great, and if not, best of luck to him wherever he ends up.
GBW released a series of free articles of Michigan commits reacting to last week's win. Here's Mario Ojemudia, who's a big fan of the defensive changes and also has his own gut feeling about Dunn:
The question on every mind of a person who follows Michigan recruiting, is what will happen with Bri’onte Dunn, and Ojemudia has his own thoughts on the five star running back.
“I didn’t even get to talk to him yesterday, but I have before a few times. I think he really likes it here, and I think he wants to come here but there are just a few things he’s got to work out.”
Ojemudia will be back in Ann Arbor this weekend. Joe Bolden also did a little recruiting of Dunn, and he confirmed he'll be enrolling early and discussed his plans for when he hits campus:
“I’m going to use every opportunity I can to get on the field. I’m a guy who hates standing on the sideline. For instance this year, I hated seeing my offense on the field because I wanted to be on the field and I feel that I can help the team. I think getting up there early will help me with school and getting me positioned and orientated with everything going on there and how to balance school and football as well as getting the playbook. I don’t want to miss a beat with spring practice.”
Allen Gant, who like Ojemudia will take a return visit for The Game, talked to Greg Mattison and Curt Mallory about how he'll be used as a Wolverine:
“Before the game I talked to the coaches and they talk to the recruits and I talked to Coach Mattison and Coach Mallory. Coach Mattison has said that he’s excited about me playing that strong safety and see’s [sic] me being a blitzing safety and Coach Mallory is really excited about getting me up there. Overall we’ve just kind of been talking about my football season and their football season.”
Considering Gant was playing a lot of linebacker when I saw him this season, blitzing strong safety seems to fit his game well.
After tallying 85 tackles (24 TFLs) and 13 sacks so far this season, Chris Wormley was named the Toledo Blade's player of the year, and they wrote up a long feature on the defensive end commit, which included some high praise from opposing coaches:
Greg Dempsey, Central Catholic: "Chris obviously has great natural ability and he's a great player. His motor is relentless, he's great against the run, he's great at the point of attack, he's great chasing down the run, and he's obviously a great pass rusher. He's one of the biggest guys we've ever had to deal with, and he makes the guys along the line better because he's so good. He's just a game changer.
"This kid's ready to step in and play [at Michigan] right now. He's probably the most college-ready guy we've gone against."
It's interesting that two of the three coaches cited Wormley's motor as a strong positive, as that has been an area of concern among recruiting analysts.
Quickly: Kyle Kalis is one of 16 finalists for the 2012 U.S. Army Player of the Year, alongside such big names as Dorial Green-Beckham, Diggs, Gunner Kiel, Thompson, and Washington; Chantel Jennings writes that Kalis is firm in his Michigan commitment, and wouldn't be swayed by an Urban Meyer hire in Columbus ($, info in header); Eric Magnuson was named to the Army All-American Bowl, and while USC and other school have been making a run at him, he's steadfast in his pledge to the Wolverines, saying "I'm committed to Michigan and that's where I'm going."
Jalin Marshall to Visit, Beat Ohio
2013 Middletown (OH) five-star QB/ATH Jalin Marshall will visit Ann Arbor this weekend ($, info in header), though he's already visited Ohio State on multiple occasions and it's apparent that the Buckeyes will be the team to beat. He could fill a big need at receiver if he decides not to try his hand at QB in college, and he appears open to other positions—making a strong impression on Saturday might be Michigan's best chance of earning a real shot at landing him.
Four-star defensive tackle Billy Price, another visitor for The Game, was profiled by Sam Webb, and the Wolverines appear to have a great shot at pulling in the 6'4", 295-pound junior. He's camped with Ondre Pipkins, saying that the 2012 commit is "everything that you're supposed to be on the D-line," and he can see himself forming a dynamite line with the players from Michigan's current class:
The Michigan coaching staff has already begun trying to capitalize on that admiration [for Pipkins] by painting for Price a picture of a defensive front that features him and Pipkins as the anchors in the middle.
"They actually are going to move me down to a three technique playing next to Ondre Pipkins," Price explained. "Kick out Chris Wormley and Tom Strobel at the ends and just tell them to go get guys. I would love to play next Ondre."
Michigan State will also factor in to his recruitment, as will powerhouses from around the country, and Price doesn't plan on making a decision until after his senior season, but the Wolverines look to be in a strong position right now.
Quickly: Wheaton (IL) St. Francis four-star OL Kyle Bosch was very impressed after visiting for the Nebraska game ($, info in header); Peoria (IL) Manuel OL Logan Luley-Tillman also visited for Nebraska and is a player to watch in the junior class ($, info in header); Grand Blanc DE Luke MacLean also was in Ann Arbor last weekend, and was duly impressed by the defensive effort ($, info in header); and Michigan legacy Brandon Bean is a junior receiver from Southfield who could also end up with an offer—he also was here last week, and has strong interest in both in-state schools ($, info in header). He'll be here this weekend as well.
(click the little pics for previous entries)
We're talking about these seniors. And I figure now's as good a time as any to specify exactly what we're thankful for. It's not simply loyalty to an institution: that for its own sake can lead to otherwise good institutions looking the other way when their members do awful things (see: MSU, OSU, PSU, SEC). Except for an extremely abstract and debatable conceptualization of Michigan as a "good guys" program, what our seniors have done by sticking through the "least rewarding Michigan careers in decades" is not a good because of a higher universal cause it served.
Whom it served was themselves (for they did get degrees), their fellow teammates who stayed, and most importantly for our purposes, us. We thank them for this because Michigan football, for reasons we can't quite articulate without sounding at least a little bit foolish, is massively, massively important to us. And while you can debate whether Michigan's football is—relatively or absolutely—a beacon of morality, or whether caring this much about the athletic derring do's of 22-year-olds is a healthy thing, what nobody is debating is that this thing called Michigan could have become something much less than it is today, and that these seniors, these seniors, saved it.
JUNIOR-JUNIOR JUNIOR JR.
Kenneth Earl "Junior" Hemingway had his own personal angry X–hating god. Services were split on him, depending on whether leaping (tremendous) or speed (sub-mendous) was the high school scout's attribute of choice. Part of that disagreement was, as you probably guessed, because of an injury his junior season. At times in his Michigan career Junior was sidelined with a bum shoulder, sometimes mononucleosis, sometimes a pulled hamstring, sometimes a sprained ankle, sometimes a sprained knee, sometimes an "abrasion," and sometimes another bum shoulder. And sometimes…
The mono struck shortly after that tantalizing catch in '08. Hemingway wasn't allowed to go near his teammates, except his roommate Mike Williams, and even then they had to label their videogame controllers so as not to spread the Junior juju. That was Junior's low point, but the resulting medical redshirt did give him this season (he played as a depth guy in '07).
A National Honor Society member and academic achievement winner, as the story goes (I haven't confirmed this but it matches most students' experiences including mine) he earned enough credits before the end of the '08 season to qualify for "junior standing," meaning Junior spent three years (academically, chronologically, redshirt-) as a junior, which I find fascinating. Possessed of remarkable body control, when Hemingway was available he was Michigan's go-to possession receiver who got tons of YAC, some inexplicable, some simply inconceivable:
"Junior always wants to make big plays," [Denard] Robinson said. "I think he's one of the best receivers in the country."
The same year Hemingway arrived, Michigan's offense transitioned to a zone running scheme. While MANBALL likes centers with enough mass to move massive nose tackles out of the hole, the perfect zone center is a guy who's really strong but also really nimble and really smart. A zone center who can get playside of a DT who's lined up playside of him, and seal that guy off—this is called a reach block—has pretty much created an instant 6 yards for the offense. It is also the hardest block for any offensive lineman to make. I learned this in October of 2008, when somebody first said that David Molk is the best offensive player on the team.
I have a thing for short people. My wife is a generous 5'0. Desmond Howard made me a Michigan fan. When Mike Hart graduated I never thought another player could ever displace him as all-time favorite Wolverine. Because football is weird the guy who would was already on the sidelines.
At one point Molk was a 5'6, 175-lb high school freshman. Then he discovered the weight room and it was love at first lift. Whereas most of Michigan's on-hand interior guys were a terrible fit for Rich Rodriguez's spread 'n shred and Barwis's legendary weight room, this hit-loving, high-motor, high-attitude, high-academic, low-elevation lineman was born for it.
In 2008 Molk never missed a single offensive play. The ones where he reached some dude and Brandon Minor went RAGE-ing into the secondary were interspersed with plays where the whittle guy got tossed into the backfield by various Ogbu monsters and inadvertently kicking Sheridan in the dong (3&O). Molk responded by getting stronger, winning the Iron Wolverine Award as the best-conditioned Michigan lineman. By his sophomore year he was a Lombardi and Rimington candidate and Michigan's offense came alive. Then he broke a foot against EMU, Moosman moved to center, and the offense wasn't as good. Molk came back from the foot (and surgery) for the first series against Penn State and Michigan went 70 yards in the opening scoring drive that consisted almost entirely of 7-yard gains. During that drive Molk tore a ligament in his knee, God canceled Christmas, and all things that ever happened again were the bad things.
If you are concerned that Molk's impending graduation means the dong-punching will start again, this is not an unreasonable fear.
Molk did return in '10—said he: "It's been almost eleven months. Somebody is going to pay."—and was a Rimington finalist and First Team All Big Ten, leading the way for Denard Robinson's Heisman candidate year despite more injuries that Molk refused to talk about. The one we knew knocked him out in the 3rd play versus Iowa. That hurt the rest of the year, though you'd never hear that from Molk. Here's a snapshot of Molk from half-time of the Wisconsin game:
David Molk decided to pull himself up, and he wanted his teammates to come up with him. They were slumped in their stalls, ready to concede, when he stood up and marched around the room. "Hey, Michigan! Are we fucking scared? Because we're playing like it! We are all on our fucking heels. ALL OF US!
"We gotta drop our fucking nuts and MAN UP! We are NOT lying down! We are NOT scared! We will fight! We will FIGHT! And we will GET AFTER THEM!
"Everyone STAND UP! Stretch out! I mean it!"
"Get up!" Van Bergen said, and they did.
"We're gonna hit 'em in the fucking face," Molk said, "and they'll cry! They'll bleed! NOW LET'S GO!"
The offence went out and played the best half against the Badgers that Wisconsin saw all year. But the defense played the worst and Michigan lost 45-28.
Then Rodriguez was fired. Despite the accolades Molk's stature and the NFL's style didn't make a jump to the pro's likely. Not that Molk ever thought about it…
"A lot of thigns had to happen to go 3-9—not because of the coach, but because of the transition. Every guy who had a chance to leave, left. That tore our team apart. We lost starters, backups, you name it. There were only half of us left.
"We're a family. I love all you guys. No matter how much shit I give you—I love you. If we don't' stay together, we'll never make it. This program stays together. I don't want to see anyone leaving. If you do, we'll be crappy for three more years.
"I love Coad Rod. He did everything he could. But now it rests on us."
JUST JUMP ALREADY … (after the jump)