Dymonte Thomas tallied four touchdowns and 193 total yards this week.
This week on Weekday Warriors, Dymonte Thomas goes off, Harrison continues to roll, Anthony Standifer has a pair of picks, and Matt Godin piles up more impressive numbers.
TN OL Blake Bars
Montgomery Bell improved to 3-4 with a 17-14 win over Father Ryan.
This week: The Big Red (2-4) host Ensworth on Friday.
OH LB Joe Bolden
Bolden led a Colerain defensive attack that held Fairfield to just 73 yards of offense in a 53-0 Cardinal victory.
This week: The Cardinals (5-1) travel to Lakota West on Friday at 7:30.
MI OL Ben Braden
Braden was a big factor in the Rockford rushing attack that tallied over 200 yards in three quarters as they ripped off 41 unanswered points in an eventual 41-6 win over East Kentwood. The game was the subject of this week's CVO, and here are the highlights:
This week: Rockford hosts Grandville on Friday at 7.
OH DE Pharaoh Brown
Brown recovered an onside kick late to give Brush a chance, but they fell 10-7 to Mayfield. No defensive stats were available.
This week: The Arcs play at Twinsburg on Thursday at 6.
MI TE Devin Funchess
Funchess returned from a toe injury that held him out last week and recorded touchdown catches of 28 and 6 yards to help Harrison improve to 6-0 with a 48-35 victory over Oak Park.
This week: The Hawks head to Rochester Adams on Thursday at 7.
OH S Allen Gant
Gant helped Southview hold Perrysburg to 210 total yards—and just 50 in the second half, most coming on a meaningless final drive—as the Cougars won 29-7 after trailing by one at halftime.
This week: Sylvania (5-1) play at Bowling Green on Friday at 7.
MI DT Matt Godin
According to Godin himself, he had 11 tackles and three QB hurries as Detroit Catholic Central took down U-D Jesuit, 20-13, to improve to 6-0 this season.
This week: The Shamrocks look to stay undefeated in a home-field showdown against Brother Rice on Saturday at 7.
UT FB Sione Houma
Houma rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries as Highland held on for a 44-37 victory over Woods Cross.
This week: The Rams take on Cyprus at home on Friday at 7.
MI LB Royce Jenkins-Stone
Cass Tech managed a strong defensive effort, but their offense was held off the board in a 7-0 shutout loss to Detroit Crockett.
This week: The Technicians (4-2) host Mumford on Friday at 4 in their regular-season finale.
OH OL Kyle Kalis
Top-ranked St. Edward defeated Ursuline, 20-7, to remain unblemished at 6-0 in 2011.
This week: The Eagles host Don Bosco Prep (NJ), home of Yuri Wright and several other D-I recruits, on Saturday at 7.
CA OL Erik Magnuson
La Costa Canyon dominated the trenches en route to a 33-7 win over Fallbrook:
The Mavericks posted six unanswered scores and dominated the second half in a 33-7 nonleague win over Fallbrook (1-3). The Mavericks (3-2) controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, outgaining the Warriors, 222 yards to 83 on the ground en route to winning their second straight game.
"It wasn't a real surprise to see how we came out in the second half," Mavericks coach Sean Sovacool said. "With the guys we have up front, and as tough as our runners are, we can grind it out. That was kind of the aim going into the second half, was to take control back, and our guys did a good job of that."
With a massive offensive line anchored by tackles Eric Magnuson (6-foot-6, 280 pounds) and Scott Quessenberry (6-4, 260), the Mavericks have taken advantage of their ability to run the ball this year. Isaac Maquet led the way Friday with 21 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown, and Deon Dickey kept Fallbrook's defense honest with 11 carries for 71 yards and a score.
"We did the same thing last week at Redlands -- we came out and ran the ball really well after halftime, and it seems to work," Maquet said. "The linemen responded well and opened some big holes.
"They do a great job."
This week: The Mavericks have a bye this week.
MI DE Mario Ojemudia
Ojemudia had a critical late fourth-down stop for no gain as Harrison held off Oak Park, 48-35. Harrison, the top-ranked team in the state, improved to 6-0 with the victory.
This week: The Hawks head to Rochester Adams on Thursday at 7.
MO DT Ondre Pipkins
Park Hill came away with an emphatic victory over North Kansas City, 42-14, to improve to 4-2 on the season.
This week: The Trojans host Lee's Summit West on Friday at 7.
MI CB Terry Richardson
No stats were available for Richardson from Cass Tech's 7-0 loss to Crockett. The Technicians (4-2, 4-1 PSL) are now in a three-way tie for first place with Crockett and King.
This week: The Technicians host Mumford on Friday at 4 in their regular-season finale.
OH LB Kaleb Ringer
Northmont's offense was stymied by an "unusual zone defense" in a 15-7 loss at Beavercreek.
This week: The Thunderbolts (2-4) host Fairmont on Friday at 7:30.
MI LB James Ross
OLSM came away with a dramatic 10-9 overtime win over Brother Rice to improve to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Catholic League Central Division, and Ross played a huge role in the victory:
Most of the rainy game was marked by defensive stops and muddy running plays. St. Mary's defense was led by senior linebacker James Ross.
"We tried to let him go a little bit there," [St. Mary's coach George] Porritt said. "James is a special player, you could see his instincts take over."
Witness those instincts in the first clip of this Fox 2 highlight reel:
This week: St. Mary's has a huge conference game at home against Shane Morris's Warren De La Salle squad on Friday at 7.
OH OL Caleb Stacey
Oak Hills fell in a heartbreaker after failing an all-or-nothing two-point conversion with three seconds left, giving Hamilton a 47-46 win in an offensive shootout.
This week: The Highlanders play at Sycamore, featuring Michigan commit A.J. Williams, on Friday at 7:30.
IL CB Anthony Standifer
Standifer came away with two interceptions as Crete-Monee blew out Bloom Township, 32-7. Here's a quote from Standifer from after the game:
"We knew (the Blazing Trojans) were going to come out and play their best, because every team tries to play their best against us in conference," said Warriors defensive back Anthony Standifer, who intercepted two passes. "We had never faced adversity before, because we had been blowing everybody out, but in the second half we had to pick it up."
The Blazing Trojans? Towelie approves.
This week: The Warriors plays at Rich Central on Friday at 6.
OH DE Tom Strobel
Strobel recorded two sacks and wreaked havoc in the Brunswick backfield as Mentor got the victory, 38-14, as the Cardinals moved to 6-0.
Strobel, a Michigan recruit, had a pair of sacks and was seemingly in the face of Yohman on almost every throw. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound senior said the Blue Devils were effective on offense early, but the interception by Coustillac settled things down for the Cardinals quickly.
"Brunswick got some drives early and we were a little shaky to start, but Regis got the pick that got us back into the game and back to the level we feel we should be playing at," Strobel said. "I put all my trust in Mitch. He is going to make the right decisions and the receivers are going to catch the ball and our offense is pretty dangerous."
Here's a post-game interview with Strobel:
This week: The Cardinals travel to Solon on Thursday at 7.
OH TE A.J. Williams
Williams one again paved the way in the trenches as Sycamore dominated on the ground in a 32-13 victory over Princeton.
This week: The Aviators host Caleb Stacey and Oak Hills on Friday night at 7:30.
OH S Jarrod Wilson
Wilson came away with an interception on Ellet's final drive to preserve a 20-13 win for Buchtel, who moved to 3-3 on the season.
This week: The Griffins play at North in a noon game on Saturday.
OH DE Chris Wormley:
No stats are available for Wormley from Whitmer's 54-7 blowout win over Clay.
[UPDATE: Coming through in the clutch is Mason Lowry, Whitmer's play-by-play man:
Whitmer's D gave up a touchdown on the very last play of the first quarter to tie it at 7-7, but really buckled down and didn't allow anything further after that. Clay runs a funky kind of spread/triple option with shades of the Wing-T, and for the most part, it wasn't very effective. Chris was his usual disruptive self, and we didn't see a whole lot of him on defense in the second half.
One interesting thing to note: Whitmer's tight end left the game after what looked like a fairly serious lower leg injury, and Chris did step in some on offense to block. Depending on how long he's out, we may get to see a little more of him blocking in the coming weeks, which could give us a little bit of an indication as to whether or not he has a future on the offensive side of the ball at the next level.
This week, the Panthers have a big one against Findlay, who is the only other undefeated team in the conference, and the only area team that sits ahead of them in the computer rankings. Pregame starts at 6:30 on Friday with kickoff at 7:00 on WRSCsports.com.
Thanks, as always, to Mason for the update.]
This week: The Panthers travel to Findlay on Friday at 7.
KY S Jeremy Clark
North Hopkins had a bye this week.
This week: The Maroons (5-1) host Hopkins County Central on Friday at 7.
MI QB Shane Morris
Morris led the way with 104 yards and four touchdown passes as De La Salle bounced back from last week's loss to DCC to take down Inkster, 46-12.
This week: The Pilots (5-1) face off against OLSM and James Ross on Friday at 7.
OH RB/S Dymonte Thomas
Thomas had a huge game, posting 102 rushing yards and 91 receiving yards while finding the end zone on runs of 3, 10, and 5 yards and a catch traveling 60 yards to lead Marlington to a 55-28 victory over Carrollton. His coach, after the game, simply said of Thomas, "He's a special player."
This week: The Dukes play at Minerva on Friday at 7.
Several months ago Brian left a few whacky meatball surgeons in charge of the B.L.O.G. 4077th unit while he did the wedding/honeymoon thing. In need of good filler we duly turned over content control to the enlisted, then didn't use any of their ideas. Then TrapperVH and Major Tim Burns left the show and we forgot 'em, but this query from a non emu:
… When Hoke was hired, Brandon alluded to some research that he had done on correlation between the background of a new head coach and his winning percentage. He basically said that coaches who had previously coached in the conference, played, or recruited in the catchment area of a B10 school was much more likely to be successful than a complete outsider, and this was one of the reasons that made Hoke a more compelling candidate. …
…resulted in an excel spreadsheet (Google doc) that I've been tinkering with ever since.
We may call this the Gary Moeller effect since he is the epitome of a guy with longstanding Big Ten experience before he took his marquee Big Ten head coaching job. Mo started working for Bo at Miami (NTM) and after '69 the only years he wasn't coordinating something for Michigan were three spent as the head coach of Illinois. But he's also the antithesis for the Illini years, when Moeller went 3-18-3 in the Big Ten, way worse than before him.
At Michigan, Moeller became the most successful Big Ten coach in the last 40 years (ties counted for 0.5 each, records through 2010):
|Rk||Coach||School||Yrs||B10 Wins||B10 Losses||B10 W%|
(Penn State is excised because when JoePa took over every team was in the Pangaea Conference. Bo Pelini too, for the same reason: not with the conference when they became HC).
Defining success isn't that straightforward. John Cooper* and Earl Bruce won a lot of Big Ten games at OSU but both were -9.5% in conf. winning % versus the 10 years preceding them while Hayden Fry (+32%), Joe Tiller (+25%), and Gary Barnett (+21%) dramatically improved moribund programs. When I compared every coach over the last 40 years to the 10 years before he arrived, I got this for best and worst:**
|Coach||School||Yrs||B10 W%||10 Years before him||Change|
But then the W% method is really unfair to coaches who took over great teams. Lloyd Carr is a hall of fame coach who won around 78% of his Big Ten games over 13 years in a tough conference environment, but versus '85 to '94 he's –2.36%, good for about average. John Pont made the Top 10 for getting Indiana from 18% to 37%. Pont later reappears just outside the loser's bracket for taking over a 40% Northwestern team and winning just 25% of his conf. games. Using both metrics however can give us a list of dudes worth discussing from the last 20 years:
(after the jump):
News bullets and other important things:
- Barnum is still day to day.
- Woolfolk is fine, even though he may or may not have been limping at the end of the game.
- Cam Gordon will practice more. Sounds like he has to fight for his job back.
- McColgan should be back for Northwestern.
- Hoke voted for Michigan to be in top 25.
Opening remarks: “It was good to start the Big Ten season winning the football game on Saturday. It was good to keep the Brown Jug. I think the score got painted on this morning at eleven. It’s good to have the Jug here in Ann Arbor.
"Everything gets tougher. Northwestern, they’re 2-2 as you all know. They lost a heartbreaker down in Champaign last week, but they have a football team that’s very well coached. Pat’s probably as good a coach as there is in the league and a guy that feels strongly about that program, being an alumnus of Northwestern and being a tremendous player there. I also think when you look at them from an offensive and defensive standpoint, they’re a team that’s going to play physical. They’re going to play 60 minutes of football. Defensively, they run very well to the ball. Offensively, Persa was back, played most of the game, was pretty productive. But Coulter is also a guy who’s moved them offensively and done a nice job. So when you look at it and playing away, we haven’t been away. It’ll be a little bit different for us because we’ve been fortunate enough to play five games in Michigan Stadium.”
Does being tied for second in the country in ppg allowed mean anything to you? Also, can you point to any tangible improvements in the defense between the spring and now? “Well, it’s like anything else. It doesn’t mean anything right now. I mean, none of those things matter. We’re 1-0 right now. I think when you look at our front the last two weeks, we’ve been a little more disruptive. That’s enabled the linebackers to do their job. I think we put a little bit more pressure at times on the quarterback. We still don’t blitz worth a dog, period. And that’s got to improve. Guys are playing together. I think they’re understanding the roles. I think the defensive staff has done a good job in preparation, and the guys are doing a good job preparing themselves.”
How did Denard look in the passing game on film? “I think mechanically he was better. I think the routes were better. I think the timing of the offense was better. There was a good tempo and good flow when you look at him and his footwork and all those things that are part of the mechanics of throwing. I think it was better. I thought it wasn’t bad versus Notre Dame, either. I think he’s a prideful guy, he’s a competitive guy … He wants to be good for his teammates.”
How do you work on timing in practice? “Well it’s just the routes and the timing, and if it’s five-step or three-step drop, from the gun or under center. Just the mechanics of that and when the ball should be thrown, on what step.”
(more after the jump around.)
NOTE: I am looking to purchase a pair of tickets to Northwestern. If you've got a couple extras email me to discharge built-up beveled guilt.
Power vs zone read. A couple weeks ago I wondered if running a bunch of power had opened up the zone read again or if it was just an effect of playing Bob Diaco and Ron English. Frequent correspondent Tyler Sellhorn provides some insight:
WLBs are the bugaboo defender for the power play (double team frontside = WLB difficult to block/unblocked). They are coached to hit the window created by the inside OL stepping to the double. Playside combos of inside zone are difficult to distinguish from straight doubles.
The best defense vs. ZR is to exchange gaps between the DE and WLB (you already know this). Therefore, these two plays in concert screw with the WLB assignment-wise from a gameplan standpoint. Gap-exchange weakside means that the free defender versus power is no longer paying any attention to the RB running said power. Leaving the DE to defend the ZR by his lonesome, though, against DR...hell to pay.
Hope that enlightens.
Since then we've seen San Diego State defend the zone read (and nothing else) ably and Minnesota defend nothing (and nothing else). A test of this theory will come against Northwestern, which may have given up 38 to Illinois but held the Illini rushing game to just 82 yards. Sacks factor in but even without those Scheelhaase and company managed just 3.1 YPC.
They also gave up 400 yards passing, so don't get too frightened.
Stretches versus outside zone. I've been using the two terms interchangeably, which Tyler suggests is mistaking rectangles for squares:
…the zone stretch, the various sweeps (including QB sweeps), pin/pull, and when the G tries to "log" the end/OLB on Down G, the Dash (frontside zone read) all try to accomplish the same thing: circle the defense and (usually) carry the ball between the numbers and the sideline.
What I am getting at is that you have made the statement that there have been zero stretches and it feels like you are implying that M is not trying to get outside when you make that statement. There are lots of ways to get the same thing as "stretch" conceptually, and Borges is trying to fit the concept into what he already has experience calling and know what to call when. For example, QB sweep was the first call against WMU.
So yeah, you keep harping on "zero stretches" when there have been plenty of attempts to get the ball outside, but M is using different blocking schemes to do the same thing. You just need to be clearer about what you are trying to say in regards to this: we should be running outside more or we should be using stretch to run outside. That is the distinction I am encouraging you to make.
Right, then: I'd like to see more outside zone blocking from Michigan because they're pretty good at it and don't seem particularly good at getting outside with pin and pull stuff or toss sweeps.
Saw your picture pages on Michigan DBs playing the fade and having success playing the man versus the ball. Thought you might find this of interest from Saban.
Basically if you are even with the WR, you play the ball. If the receiver looks over his inside shoulder you look back that way; if the WR turns his outside shoulder back you turn into the WR (toward the sideline) to play the back shoulder fade.
But if you're out of phase with the guy, ie trailing him, you don't turn back to find the ball because you never will and they'll catch it; you play the man and his hands and eyes. (I get the impression that this wasn't the case last year.)
From the photos I saw on your site the Michigan DBs are doing a good job playing the man, but that's because they aren't "in-phase" with the WRs. If the throw was better they'd probably be completing the fades. But you're closer to this stuff than I am; mostly wanted to pass along the Saban points.
So Michigan's trail technique seems born of necessity. Since they don't have Charles Woodson or Leon Hall back there the best they can do is go for the PBU. We've seen Blake Countess look for the ball because he's in better position a few times.
If Countess proves to be the real deal and Michigan can get a second corner at that level we may see more DBs look back for the ball. As it is the current technique is at least an excellent stopgap.
A little outdated. This came in before the Minnesota game:
Do you think Denard would be as effective a runner from the RB position as he is from the QB position? My gut says he would not be but can't explain why. I bring this up given his continued poor passing performance with some people clamoring for him to change positions.
Denard wouldn't be as effective a runner because he excels in the space allowed by a spread formation. In a pro-style offense he would probably be too slight to be a tailback, at least full-time. He'd end up in the slot.
The main tactical innovation allowed by having your QB as a runner is it allows you to spread the field horizontally by adding more WRs without giving up the extra blocker. With the defense locked in on those slots—something the threat of the bubble screen enforces—a guy like Denard can pick and choose from big gaps that open up because the defense is stretched.
Handing it to a tailback without using the QB as a threat invites an unblocked guy through since there are fewer blockers in the area. Think of this like a power play: a 4-on-3 power play is more dangerous than a 5-on-4 because it's easier to find the open guy and there's more space. The shotgun provides the extra man by using the QB as a runner. That extra space means Denard can make yards by accelerating past tackles instead of breaking them.
Denard's still pretty good when things get tight, but the pounding would be worse if that was all he was doing.
Play action problems.
Brian, would like your view/analysis of Denard's play action fakes and the importance of these in the offense. It does not appear to me that Denard really sells the hand off as much as other QB's. I'll spare the comparison to Peyton Manning. A good play fake can open up zones in the secondary and give Denard more time to make his reads as the defense should be crashing on the running back. Or, is this less of an issue in a zone read offense since there is basically a play fake on the majority of plays.
It appears to me Borges likes to throw off play action and if the QB is not selling it, that might account for some of the pressured throws we have seen from Denard so far. (disclaimer about adjustment to learning a new offense a given)
There are two entirely different playfakes Denard is executing. There's one from under center and one from the shotgun. It is possible that Denard's fakes from under center are not convincing, but I think the bigger problem is that the run game is not threatening. When you're averaging three yards a carry, safeties don't have to worry about your run game because it's not getting to them. I'll keep an eye out if we get more play action from the I-form later in the year. It's possible he's a problem there since he hasn't really practiced that skill.
The shotgun is a different matter. When Michigan goes play action from the shot gun it's either Denard stepping to the line or a zone read fake. Both are inherently convincing. In the first Denard is moving towards the LOS as the offense run blocks. In the second they are executing the mesh point exactly as they would on a running play. Unless the line is doing things that tip off the opponent there's no difference. The sheer number of hand-wavingly wide open dudes on shotgun PA should be sufficient evidence that Denard's doing just fine with his fakes there.
I'm reading the SDSU preview and you say that Demens and Hawthorne have to get better at diagnosing plays quickly. This appears to be a consistent theme with M linebackers over the last few years. I would assume that this "skill" is probably the easiest to evaluate when recruiting high school players as HS offenses are pretty run heavy. Did our coaches completely drop the ball in recruiting these guys or did they believe diagnosing plays is something that can be taught and, thus, focused more on the recruit's physical traits/potential?
I'm not sure that skill is easy to evaluate because a lot of high school kids don't get much coaching and what they get is of debatable value. You might be able to detect a kid who just Gets It, but plenty of college-level athletes who look clueless early develop into excellent players with college coaching. Prescott Burgess and Shawn Crable are two examples in recent Michigan history.
In the case of Michigan's current starters, the Great Rodriguez Defensive Coaching Malpractice is probably more at fault than recruiting. The current LB crew has been coached by Jay Hopson, Greg Robinson, and Adam Braithwaite. Braithwaite has the best resume of all of those guys by virtue of not having one. They've also swung from one system to another and, in the case of Herron, Hawthorne, and Cam Gordon, from one position to another. If these guys weren't having trouble diagnosing plays that would warrant creating a golden idol resembling Mark Smith.
As it is I think they're doing as well as can be expected. Hopefully we'll see the improvement we never got under the GRDCM as the season progresses.
Ben Braden is quite large, especially in comparison to his rather diminutive teammate
This week the van traveled to the west side of the state to see offensive tackle Ben Braden and Rockford take on East Kentwood in an OK Red division battle. Rockford got off to a slow start, allowing a fumble return for a touchdown on their first offensive snap of the game, but the Rams proceeded to reel off 41 straight points to close the game, winning 41-6. Braden—playing mostly at left tackle and exclusively taking snaps on offense—helped pave the way as Rockford tallied over 200 rushing yards before pulling their starters early in the fourth quarter. Highlights go here:
The first thing that stands out about Braden is, of course, his size—he's listed on the Rockford roster at 6'7", 319 pounds, and he looked every bit that big, standing out among a very large Ram offensive line. He doesn't appear to be carrying any bad weight, as evidenced by his surprising quickness for a player his size, and as they say, you can't teach size—Braden certainly passes the eyeball test when you're looking for a BCS-level offensive tackle prospect.
Along with Braden's size, his quick feet appear to be his best asset. Rockford pulled Braden on many of their running plays, and he's very fast in getting off the ball, through the hole, and into the second level, where he can ideally crush the poor linebacker standing in his way. While the latter part happened a couple times, there were several instances in which Braden simply did not find a man to block—I am by no means an expert on offensive line play, but it was disconcerting how many plays ended with him running five or ten yards downfield looking for someone to hit.
This brings me to my biggest point of concern about Braden—one that has been voiced elsewhere—and that's the lack of the proverbial 'mean streak'. In a game in which Braden regularly was called upon to pull and block linebackers, all of whom he outweighed by at least 100 pounds, I counted exactly two plays in which he put a defender on his backside. Against an overmatched team like East Kentwood, either Braden was taking it easy—which I don't think was the case—or he needs to work on developing a bit more aggressiveness in his play.
In the run game, I thought he was solid, but not as good as I expected. He was able to get playside of smaller defenders and seal them off a few times in impressive fashion, but he also didn't push the pile and knock guys around as much as one would expect from such a large, talented lineman.
Rockford only attempted nine passes in the game, and I'm pretty sure Braden was out of the game for a few of those, but in limited chances he had some ups and downs. On a couple passes, he was barely tested and able to shove aside any defensive lineman who dared get within his reach, and he did a nice job of getting off the line and staying relatively low in his stance—he appears to have the groundwork for some solid technique. Unfortunately, there were two plays in which he missed his assignment—one is included in the above video, in which he just let a rusher run free around the end and looks confused as to who he should block—and both ended with his quarterback under heavy pressure. This is his first year at left tackle and it appears he's still getting used to the new position.
Overall, I thought Braden showed why he's a Michigan recruit—his combination of size and quickness is really tough to match—but he's definitely a work-in-progress. While I haven't had the chance to see any of the other 2012 OL commits personally, I'd expect there are at least a couple who will be more ready to see the field if called upon next season or even in 2013. If Braden develops more of an edge and continues to work on technique, however, he could end up being an extremely good lineman at the next level—he's got the size to push guys around in a MANBALL scheme, the quickness and reach to develop into a very good pass-blocker, and he's already looking good on zone running plays.
Apologies for the lack of action shots, but by the time I realized I should be heading down to the field Braden's night was already over.
ACE: First of all, that was an impressive performance by the team today. How would you assess the team's performance and your individual performance?
BEN: I think as a team, I definitely have to commend the guys, we're always working as a team together and always trying to figure things out. Just like me and everybody else, we've always got to work on stuff individually, but team-wise we did pretty good.
ACE: Can you elaborate on your own performance?
BEN: It was alright. Like everybody else, you work as a team, and you've always got things you've got to work on for next week.
ACE: You were the first commit to Michigan this year. What's it been like seeing the recruiting class come together?
BEN: It's been very exciting. I'm definitely getting to know the rest of the teammates and everything and it's fun—it's great to get to know the guys and everything, and I'm looking forward to [playing with them].
ACE: Which recruits have you been in contact with?
BEN: Caleb Stacey, a little bit, but kind of just everybody. Juwan Lewis, a little bit, from Muskegon, and then just when I go to the games, when I see people—whether they're committed or just recruits—just talking with them.
ACE: Do you have any visits planned for the rest of the season?
BEN: Nothing official just yet. I'll probably go to the Purdue game or a couple more games.
ACE: There's a lot of offensive linemen committed, and possibly at least one more on the way. Michigan is a little thin on the offensive line next year. Are you ready to come in and play next year and where do you think you'd fit in on that line?
BEN: I'm just going to go in, work my hardest, and try to learn everything as best I can—just work with the guys and try to get in and gel with them.
ACE: If you were to assess your own game, what would you say are your strengths and what are your working on to get ready for the next level?
BEN: Strengths, you know everybody's got their strengths and weaknesses. I'm a little quicker than people [expect], but everybody's got their differences. [I'm working on] getting low, just the real basic stuff, keep working on my footwork, that kind of stuff.
There are two games this week in which Michigan recruits face off against each other, one being Sycamore (A.J. Williams) vs. Oak Hills (Caleb Stacey) in Cincinnati, the other Warren De La Salle (Shane Morris) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's (James Ross). Considering Williams and Stacey both play on the offensive line, I haven't yet seen Sugar Shane in person, and OLSM is much closer than Cincinnati, I'm strongly leaning towards attending the latter game.
10/1/2011 – Michigan 58, Minnesota 0 – 5-0, 1-0 Big Ten
In the depths of Michigan's worst season ever (if you can't divide) or in a damn long time (if you can) they travelled to the Metrodome to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Michigan was 2-7 and without the services of their starting quarterback. Minnesota was 7-2 and in possession of a functional offense. I was posting pictures of Death because Nick Sheridan was going to play the entire game. We were going to hit rock bottom when the Gophers picked up the jug they see once a decade, if that. "Henry Kissinger" was amongst the things projected to be more fun than the Jug game.
Because football is strange, Michigan waltzed into Minneapolis and annihilated the Gophers. The final score was 29-6; total yardage was 435-188. Nick Sheridan completed 60% of his passes and almost eclipsed 7 YPA. Justin Feagin averaged 7 yards a carry.
It was a crazy exception to the nigh-unrelenting misery of 2008. Yeah, they fluked their way into a win over Wisconsin despite getting outgained by 100 yards. Minnesota was different. If you had no knowledge of the context you would have thought it was a year like any other, a Michigan team like any other. Michigan did what they do to Minnesota: beat them without a second thought.
This week multiple newspaper folk took the time to tell people the Jug doesn't matter, but when that awful Michigan team locked arms and walked over to Jon Falk to lift up the only thing they'd held onto, it mattered. Paul Bunyan, the bowl streak, most people's sanity, all of the street cred, and huge chunks of the dignity were gone. The Jug remained.
Martin, Koger, Molk, and Van Bergen were freshmen on that team. Molk started. Koger, Van Bergen, and Martin played but didn't acquire stats. Recruited by Carr, they stuck it out under Rodriguez. Many of their teammates didn't.
As a reward the four above started down a path towards the least rewarding Michigan careers in decades, through little or no fault of their own. You can win Big Ten championships with those four guys as prominent starters. You have to have other people to play football around them, though, and maybe a coach or two who can tell the difference between a stuffed beaver and a 4-3 under. Michigan didn't.
In 2008 they had little on the field and even less off it. According to John Bacon's Three and Out, Lloyd Carr signed off on Justin Boren's transfer to Ohio State and upstanding citizen Jim Tressel. Morgan Trent half-assed his way through the season and tossed bombs at Rodriguez afterwards. Toney Clemons and Greg Mathews would act as sources for the Free Press jihad shortly after the season. Given the result of that investigation it's clear they did so entirely out of spite. Brandon Minor would rail on about how leadership was going to happen in 2009 as people whispered that he was a major source of its lack in 2008. There's probably never been a more dysfunctional Michigan team, and it started from the top.
Freshmen learn from seniors. This is the way of the world. Usually they learn how to be, how to maintain the standards of the program they walked into. The four guys above did it a different way: they learned what not to do. When it came time to meet for the first time in the Hoke era, they decided not to repeat the recent past. Mike Martin:
"‘What are we going to do as a team? Where are we now? We can either not be all in and do what we need to do, or we can work hard together and make sure we’re successful.’ ”
Hoke was also in the room. He remembered Robinson being upset at the media speculating his departure. He remembered fifth-year senior center David Molk getting up in that same meeting and telling everybody the team was going to stick together. …
“When (Robinson) came to us, he was addressing that we as a group — including him — need to make sure that none of the younger guys have doubtful thoughts or might want to stray away,” Martin said. “We didn't want there to be a repeat of last time there was a transfer of a coach.”
Meanwhile, Van Bergen called out the program alums who'd drifted away when times got tough. The message was clear: this is our program. We've been here for four years and gotten nothing but crap. We've paid more dues than anyone in the last 40 years of Michigan football, and now we'd like some payoff.
That payoff was going to be an Alamo Bowl at best. But the seniors' effort, Greg Mattison's expertise, Denard Robinson's existence, the Big Ten's complete horribleness, and Brady Hoke's rectal horseshoe now tempt hope.
Michigan State can't run or stay within three scores of Notre Dame. Nebraska can't throw or keep a good running offense under 30 points. Iowa can't beat Iowa State. It may be a division race on par with one of those years Wake Forest won the ACC, but by God there is a tinny flimsy division championship there to be acquired. Even if it wouldn't be much—in all likelihood it would be a historical footnote after a curbstomping at the hands of Wisconsin—it would at least somewhat fulfill a promise Bo made when he arrived in 1969.
No one's deserved it more than the four guys above. It's relatively easy to be a "Michigan Man" when it's handed down to you. Koger, Martin, Molk, and Van Bergen had to figure it out on their own. They stayed, and figured it out when available evidence suggested being a Michigan Man was endorsing transfers to Free Tattoo University, telling recruits to go to Michigan State, and selling out your own program to a couple of hacks.
A few years ago on the eve of the Ohio State game that ended to that miserable 2008 season I wrote a thing about being an anchorless mid-20s person who is uncertain of where to go or who to be and is sad as a result. In that piece I envisioned Michigan's coaches telling their charges how to get out of this hole:
Some of you will stay. And you will go insane. You will work, and you will work, and we will build something here from nothing. Because, make no mistake, this is nothing. You will build something out of this. If you're a senior next year and you teach some freshman something, you will build something. If you're a freshman and you refuse to quit on your stupid decision, you will build something.
What you build will be yours. Few in the great history of his university have had that opportunity. Everything came based on what came before. They were part of a great chain, now broken.
Those of you who stay will forge a new one, starting today. When we are done we will fix the last link to the broken chain, and break the first link, and tell those who come after us to live up to it.
Whether or not Michigan manages a championship, flimsy or real, Michigan's seniors have done this. This Is Michigan again because they stayed.
Non-Bullets Of Domination
Photogallery. Via the Ann Arbor Observer and Eric Upchurch:
The two QB formation thing. So that was something. That and the double pass touchdown reminded me of that Indiana game prior to Football Armageddon (IIRC) when Michigan dumped out a zillion trick plays to force the opponent to prepare for extra stuff. I didn't like it then and hope that's not the case now, not least because after the first play the thing seemed pretty effective. Gardner implied that was not the case:
“It’s really, really dangerous. We’ve also got Fitzgerald Toussaint back there and Vincent Smith," he said. "You’re going to have to wait and see. It’s going to be pretty dangerous.”
What to call it? Hoke refused to answer a direct question about what we should call it, so it's up to us. Vincent Smith suggests "two," which is a little bland. Ace got a "diamond of doom" suggestion on Twitter; while that's catchy it's also long and jinxtastic. Naturally, Ace wants to extend it to "Denard and Devin's Diamond of Doom" because it abbreviates to DDDD and if there's one thing Ace likes it's repetitive hexadecimal numbers.
But that's long and a bit awkward. Since it's a goofy, misdirection-heavy everyone's-a-QB thing that reminds people of the Mad Magicians I propose calling it "Fritz." It's not exactly what Crisler used to do…
…but what "Fritz" lacks in outright accuracy it makes up for in Getting-Itness.
[BONUS extreme history nerd BONUS: This has set frequent correspondent John Kryk alight with references to not Crisler but Notre Dame's Frank Leahy, who deployed a T formation with a close resemblance to Fritz.
Michigan sort of ran the above. Kryk actually has a diagram in which the T looks identical to Fritz:
I'm pretty sure we'll all way too abuzz about a formation we'll see maybe a half-dozen times the rest of the season, but old-timey football is always cool to see in the flesh. It's why Georgia Tech games remain an abiding fascination.]
Why does the outside pitch not bother me so much in that formation? When we run the I-form fake-dive-to-pitch it's just asking the opposition to key on the running back flying out to the corner because Michigan never runs the dive, and even if they did defenses are like "BFD." When we ran it from Fritz it played off the earlier speed option.
Is it a tenable package against real opposition? If the wildcat can work I don't see why this can't.
Triple option? May be on the way.
Records. Some happened. Smith's touchdown cycle had not been accomplished in the modern era:
It was the first time a player has ran, thrown and passed for a score in modern Michigan football history (post-World War II).
That seemed like a given. I'm waiting for MVictors to dig up the dude who managed it in 1923, because I know it's happened and I know he will.
via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer.
Our helmets have wings… and numbers! Let's avoid the inevitable Rodriguez tradition rehash. It's already been done. Personal opinion of them: whateva. On a scale from 10 to –10 where 10 is Denard, –10 is Pop Evil, and 0 is total indifference I'm a –0.1. I'd rather not have the uniforms futzed with but the numbers have some history to them, don't look terrible, and are a minor adjustment.
I think Hoke should say he'll yank 'em if they lose, though.
On-field takeaways. Minnesota is very not good—we were playing a pretend game where the Gophers got a touchdown every time they crossed midfield and a point every time they succesfully fielded a kickoff and they still lost by 30. So disclaimers apply.
That said: Denard throwing to his receivers—and getting the opportunity to hit some short, confidence-building throws—was encouraging, as was the almost total lack of I-form even deep into the third quarter. That seems like an abandonment. If they were still working on it they would have pulled it out just to practice it, no?
Short stuff. AnnArbor.com's Kyle Mienke notes that of Michigan's first 11 passes, eight were five yards or less. He categorizes that crazy seam to Hopkins as "another was over the top to a leaking fullback," which is a goofy thing to try to lump into easy passes for Denard confidence. That was pure DO.
Patrick Omameh. Some evidence he might be struggling in the new offense: he was left on the field much longer than any of the other starters save Schofield, who was forced into the starting lineup by the Barnum injury and was granted time at tackle late.
Possible liberation society addendum. I'm so over the rollouts. It seems like the only way to get Denard Robinson pressured is to roll him out into unblocked contain defenders, which Michigan does plenty. If you leave him in the pocket people are terrified to get out of their lanes and he usually has a lot of time. If you put him on the edge against defenses keying on him he doesn't get outside and he has to make rushed throws on the move that seem to be more inaccurate than his usual ones.
I guess the rollouts do open up the throwback stuff, which has been very successful. And they did insert a heavy dose of sprint draw (AKA That Goddamned Counter Draw), something I've been pleading for since Rodriguez's arrival. So they might be developing a package there. They've got to figure out how to block it.
FWIW, I wasn't a fan of showing the sprint draw against an incompetent opponent. I'd rather Michigan's future opponents not prepare for a potentially game-breaking play. But I've got no evidence behind that.
Field goals. We haz them?
Hoke for tomorrow is getting a little ahead of itself:
It is not hard to see the qualities of Bo in Brady Hoke. At first I cringed at his seeming overconfidence, at his seeming overuse of Bo-isms, and wondered if he was trying too hard to win Michigan fans' hearts with his bravado. I don't doubt the man any longer. Brady Hoke has a Bo-like level of expectations for those he leads. He has expectations of effort, execution, and yes "toughness" that no coach since Bo has required from both his players and his staff. Hoke isn't making Michigan great again by being an innovator on either side of the ball; he is acquiring the best available parts, constructing a beast-machine, and driving the thing to eventual domination.
These feelings must be fought until the Michigan State game. ST3 goes inside the box score:
This is the section where I discuss turnovers and other momentum changing plays. There was one burst of impetus in this game. Minnesota kicked off to start the game. That's it. They were never in it. I bet that "adjusted winning percentage" diary shows us pegged at 100% for the duration.
Lloyd Brady is unstoppable.
Media as in files. Melanie Maxwell's Ann Arbor.com gallery.
WHY DID YOU GIVE ME CANCER GOLDY
i… I was just trying to field a kickoff
I think he may have altered that shot but will check. Greg also has a bunch of jug pictures. Troy Woolfolk posted this on his twitter:
The explanation: "My girl is always experimenting on me." I have no idea? I have no idea.
And finally, eagle-eyed mgouser M Fanfare caught an epic double point from Hoke:
In other Brady Hoke Points At Stuff news, Brady Hoke points at stuff.
Media, as in unwashed internet rabble. I have no idea what "Everybody pants now" means, but if you watch Parks and Rec you probably do. Amongst Adam Jacobi's things he learned in the conference this week:
So while it's easy to just say "But 2010" whenever someone mentions the fact that Michigan is still undefeated, there's one difference that's crucial to point out: the defense is showing up too. Last season, Michigan gave up over 25 points per game in its first five games. This year? 10.2. Yes, it's relevant that 31 points came against Notre Dame in a game the Wolverines had zero business winning and 20 came against tomato cans like Eastern Michigan and Minnesota, but consider that Michigan also spanked Western Michigan 34-10, and that's a Broncos team that came up just shy in a 23-20 loss at Illinois and just took a 38-31 win at Connecticut. So yes, given the context we've got, Michigan is not just pulling a 2010.
Jacobi's still not banking on Michigan "surviving" our "brutal November," but if not surviving means not winning the division instead of collapsing to 7-5 I don't think Michigan fans are going to be too peeved.
Blake Countess is the next Leon Hall. Yep, I said it. Minnesota doesn't have the greatest talent in the world, but Countess has looked pretty darn good for two weeks in a row. Courtney Avery had a nice 83-yard fumble return for a touchdown, but Avery has been getting beaten more regularly than any of Michigan's other corners this year. He's still not bad, but it looks like Countess will grab a starting spot sooner rather than later.
The Hoover Street Rag notes it was appropriate that Michigan tried a transcontinental-type play on the same day they honored John Navarre, though in that case they were attempting a double pass, not a run. Was anyone else OUTRAGED that the Navarre highlight package didn't include the Buffalo Stampede? That's like having an Alan Branch highlight package without the Morelli elimination.
That was an old school Michigan blowout, like the ones you'd watch on ESPN Plus (memory lane, you are there now) back in the day, where nothing was ever in doubt and The Law was that Michigan would average a billion yards a carry under a grumpy Michigan sky. It's always the ideal of overindulgence, and if anything it's a reminder of how far we've come since 2008 when beating Minnesota on the road was considered an upset.
Media as in newspaper type things. Brian Bennett's take from the ESPN Big Ten blog:
f and when Minnesota can get back to being competitive in the Big Ten, the Gophers can use Saturday's game as a motivational tool.
Hopefully for them, they'll remember this as rock bottom. Because Michigan blew the doors off Jerry Kill's team in a 58-0 humiliation at the Big House. The Wolverines have dominated this Little Brown Jug series for the last 40 years, but Saturday's margin of victory was the largest in the long-running semi-rivalry. It was the fifth-largest win in Michigan history, and that's a lot of history there.
Are we seriously declaring a knee to end the game as a failed redzone opportunity, News?
For Michigan, this game was a chance to flex its muscles offensively and defensively, add a few wrinkles and give as many players as possible — in this case, 71 — an opportunity to play. Michigan was 8-of-9 in the red zone against the Gophers and is now 21-of-22 for the season (17 touchdowns and four field goals).
No, we are not.
Via the Daily, some facts that sum up last year's field goal kicking:
The three field goals were each career longs [for Gibbons] at the time, starting from 25 yards and going to 32 yards and to 38 yards. In five games this season he’s missed just one field goal — a 40-yard try against San Diego State.