Exit: Chase Lasater
I'm a little late getting to this after the bye week, but fullback Chase Lasater is no longer a member of the class. Lasatar announced his decommitment on his Twitter account, which is now set to private. He said he and his family "feel it is best" to reopen his recruitment and that Michigan remains one of his top schools; he thanked Jim Harbaugh and Bam Richards for recruiting him.
With Michigan going after LSU fullback commit Tory Carter, who has an official visit scheduled, it would be a surprise if Lasater ended up back in the class.
The coaching staff didn't take it easy during the bye week, instead heading out for a long list of recruiting visits headlined by Jim Harbaugh's stop in Antioch to see the #1 recruit in the country, CA RB Najee Harris. Scout's Josh Henschke has a full, free rundown of who the coaches saw.
Notably, a few new offers went out, including one that spurred a new Crystal Ball prediction. That came after Michigan offered three-star TN DT Rutger Reitmaier, who's committed to Oregon, a program you may recall hiring a defensive coordinator with a very strong track record of unearthing excellent defensive linemen. Reitmaier has some impressive junior film (see above) and Oregon commits are ripe for picking these days. This offer looks like a reflection of both Reitmaier's ability and M's waning hopes of bringing Aubrey Solomon back into the fold; Sam Webb was in Lee County during the bye and came away saying M's chances at Solomon are "essentially nil."
Harbaugh also offered top-100 Las Vegas Bishop Gorman S Bubba Bolden, and Sam Webb says that despite the late timing of the offer, Michigan could have a shot:
Michigan offered four-star safety Bubba Bolden from Bishop Gorman. Despite the relative lateness of that offer, the interest definitely appears to be mutual. Bolden has two open visit dates and has expressed a desire to give Michigan one of them. No firm date has been established but a trip to Ann Arbor now appears to be a distinct possibility.
The coaches also offered four-star AZ S Isaiah Pola-Mao, who currently has Washington on top of his list. The multiple new safety offers could be a result of commit J'Marick Woods, who recently had high praise for his Arkansas official visit, taking a look around; I highly doubt it's a product of losing confidence in their ability to land Jaylen Kelly-Powell.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
The best quote. ESPN was offered full and frank access to a Wisconsin DBs meeting before the Ohio State game. This was kind of a questionable decision since ESPN published some takes on OSU's personnel that would seem to have a negative impact on Wisconsin's ability to use said takes. For example, Jim Leonhard's take on Curtis Samuel would seem ripe for Samuel to break tendency:
"You watch him, the thing that he gets guys on is if he kind of goes lazy in a route, don't believe it," Leonhard said. "He'll stem you. He's going to break hard as hell. Everything he's going to do, he's going to be patient at the top of routes. But if he starts just kind of bending into something, he's going opposite. Don't fall for the trap."
I almost always think coach secrecy is absurd paranoia but I was shocked Wisconsin let this get published, especially before the game even happened.
Anyway, at the end of the piece there is a quote directly relevant to your interests:
"You just have to communicate, which you've done a really good job of," he said. "Is that nearly as hard as Michigan last week? Michigan was something new every single snap. These guys are almost the complete opposite. You'll watch the game and be like, 'Damn, they did exactly what we saw.' We'll just have to see early recognizing the formations that they're going to be in, then we'll motion."
I can't tell you how many times during the Carr era that we'd be on the other end of that quote, with teams playing Michigan and then stating that M did exactly what they saw on film and nothing else. I love the alternative.
Meanwhile the other side of the ball just got the same makeover. I love that Michigan went out and got Defensive Jim Harbaugh in Don Brown. Michigan's gone from a very simple defense under Durkin to a blizzard of different looks. Craig Ross mentioned on WTKA that a Power 5 offensive coordinator told him that he spent most of BC week just trying to figure out what the hell Brown was doing.
Michigan is now an incredibly difficult opponent to prepare for on either side of the ball.
Brock Spack's best attribute is his mustache. This is a compliment.
Exit Darrell Hazell. Purdue pulled the trigger on their head coach after nine wins in 3.5 years, and is now on the Lowered Expectations dating scene. Everyone's got a list. Hammer and Rails has one, and here's a sad commentary on where they're at:
Name: Brady Hoke
Position: Oregon DC
Why?: Ya, Oregon isn’t very good right now. Hoke was up and down at Michigan. But, he has head coaching experience and is looking for another head coaching job. Getting back into the B1G isn’t easy, but this could be a chance for him as he could take over a Purdue program in shambles.
Chance: With how Oregon has looked this season, I don’t think we take a chance on him. But his head coaching experience in the B1G makes him appealing a little bit.
At least they're unenthused.
The candidates drawing the most mention seem to be WMU's PJ Fleck, former LSU HC Les Miles, and Illinois State HC Brock Spack. Fleck's probably going to get better offers this offseason and should wait on a less difficult opportunity; Miles is probably a real bad idea since by the time he'd have his players in he'd be close to retirement; Spack hasn't lit it up on the FCS level.
If those aren't the names, Purdue might repeat their Hazell move:
Pretty much every assistant at Ohio State and some at Michigan are likely to be candidates for Purdue, I’m told.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 16, 2016
Hazell had been a head coach at Kent State for two years, but he was close to a "close your eyes and throw a dart at the OSU assistant roster" move. It would be uninspiring and very Purdue to replicate their failed process from last time.
Bill Connelly points out that Purdue's only successful coaching hires in the past 30 years have been relative outsiders, and he suggests a selection of creative offensive minds at smaller schools. He's correct. This is the pool Purdue should be selecting from. They need something weird to overcome their talent deficiencies, and they have the financial resources to grab a guy from Tulane or Air Force or wherever.
Personally, I would loathe playing a triple option version of Purdue—never schedule Air Force!—and co-sign this tweet from Jane Coaston:
The solution to Purdue football: get someone who recognizes you can’t be OSU/M. Do something different.
What i’m saying is RUN THE OPTION.
— Jane Coaston (@cjane87) October 16, 2016
Ken Niumatalolo may not be poachable after he turned down overtures from BYU last year, but if the problem there was BYU's reluctance to go flexbone Purdue might not have a shot. Connelly mentions Air Force's Troy Calhoun, who's won eight games a year two-thirds of the time at a service academy and gave Michigan all it wanted a few years back, and he seems like a good idea. Willie Fritz ran a deeply weird pistol triple option thing at Georgia State; I mentioned him offhandedly during the portion of Michigan's most recent coaching search where I threw out every candidate who was even vaguely plausible. He'd be a good idea.
In non-option options: Jeff Brohm at WKU has assembled Tiller-esque explosive offenses. I'd at least kick the tires on Chris Klieman, the third-year NDSU head coach who's kept Craig Bohl's train running without a hiccup.
For your sake, Purdue, don't close your eyes and grab a manball retread or an assistant who's operated with an embarrassment of riches. Look to someone scrabbling up from down below.
SLEEPER THOUGH. Charlie Strong.
Michigan assistants? Drevno and Fisch draw mention from Feldman in the Others Receiving Votes section of his list. While I think both guys are good coaches and will be HCs somewhere down the road, neither seems like a good fit for perpetually undermanned Purdue, and both guys can find themselves jobs less likely to end in termination. If Purdue's smart they won't focus on either guy; if either guy is smart they'd wait for something like Maryland or Cincinnati.
Another Endzone excerpt. The Postgame runs a piece from Bacon on Harbaugh's long-term prospects in Ann Arbor:
As one of Harbaugh's closest associates, attorney John Denniston, told me, "Jim doesn't like to recruit. He loves to recruit." If that sounds like hyperbole, you might consider the 22-state, 38-stop satellite tour, which Harbaugh described as "more fun than you can possibly imagine, like a pig in slop."
The only issue on that list that would seem to present a compelling reason for Harbaugh to leave is the health of Michigan's athletic department. When people on the book tour asked me to predict how long Harbaugh would coach Michigan, my answer was simple: It depends on his relationship with the next athletic director.
Quinn on Rahk. MAAR's development is probably the second-biggest key for Michigan this year behind that of Mo Wagner:
"For two years now, I've seen a great evolution in his game," Beilein said. "I want to see much more. He's capable of being a superior athlete."
A few things need to happen.
Abdur-Rahkman's jump shooting needs to improve. He raised his 3-point percentage from 29.3 percent (12-41) to a respectable 36.5 percent (31-85) from his freshman to sophomore year, but another jump could elevate Abdur-Rahkman among the best guards in the Big Ten.
His playmaking also needs to improve. Despite playing in 21 more games than LeVert last year, Abdur-Rahkman finished with 13 fewer assists for the season. His 3.7 assists per 100 possessions ranked below Duncan Robinson and Kameron Chatman. While his 27 turnovers in 1,001 minutes played were impressively meager, they also speak to a lack of facilitating for others.
Ian Boyd on OSU. This piece went up before the Wisconsin game and looks fairly prescient right now. It's SBN's Ian Boyd on certain flaws that OSU has demonstrated so far this year:
So if the Buckeye run game were stopped or slowed?
An opponent that knew how to line up against Urban Meyer’s arsenal of formations and variations on option run schemes would undoubtedly have a chance to force this particular team into some obvious passing situations.
The Buckeyes have had 40 TD drives so far this season and 14 of them (35%) required 10 plays or more. They’re very used to having to grind their way down the field with the run game and if you stopped up the works they’d be forced to rely more on their passing game.
Venturing back up to our handy chart, we notice that against the three toughest opponents on Ohio State’s schedule that Barrett threw 63 passes for 394 yards at 6.3 yards per attempt with five TDs and a sole INT. He’s been good at avoiding turnovers, though that may be partly due to simply not throwing many passes in the first place, but simply hasn’t been that threatening throwing the ball. If not for the four touchdown passes he threw to big Noah Brown in the red zone against Oklahoma, those numbers wouldn’t be too impressive either.
Barrett had a good second half against Wisconsin and managed to get OSU to 23 points in regulation. It was a struggle the whole way, though. Michigan's defense is another level up from Wisconsin's; that game gave me great hope that Michigan can turn the Game into a defensive slugfest.
Illinois week. The Illini probably won't be much of a challenge—they got outgained by Rutgers last week and Michigan is a whopping 35-point favorite. But it is an opportunity to point out Illini Board, which is a good Illinois blog/community. Their take on Rutgers:
Because this is just year one. The idea is 2019, with Michigan in Champaign, with the roster rebuilt, and that defense taking the ball away from the Wolverines and stopping them on fourth and one. I flipped the switch to rebuild mode last week, so watching this game in rebuild mode, it was great to see those plays from Milan and Watson. Bodes well for the future.
Remember the Minnesota game in 2008 when we outgained them something like 550-310 yet we lost because we kept turning the football over? That was a few months before I started the blog, but if I was blogging that fall, that game would have been my first “Turnovers Are Football” post. So many times, being on the wrong end of turnovers cost us.
And today, being on the right end delivered a win.
Lovie Smith is the most credible head coach they've had in a while, but it's going to take a long time to get out from underneath the Beckman denouement.
We've been there. Georgia lost to Vandy and their irritating athletic director hasn't crossed the line to get axed, so Get The Picture is feeling pretty gloomy:
It dawned on me leaving the stadium Saturday that one thing is really missing from Georgia football — it’s not fun to watch. By that, I don’t mean losing sucks. It does, of course.
What I mean is that watching a Georgia game feels like more of a chore these days than entertainment.
Man, did I write a column or two like that a few years back. It must be frustrating to be UGA and always be good but seemingly never be great—oh right, we know what that's like too. Throw in the fact that Ann Arbor and Athens are almost the same city and the UGA and Michigan fan bases are the most golf-apparel-friendly ones in the country and the parallels go deep between the two schools.
Anyway, this season is super fun and let's be sure to savor it.
Desmond Morgan gets into coaching. He's a GA at Wayne State:
Q: What are some of your responsibilities at Wayne State as a graduate assistant?
Morgan: One thing that’s been really interesting is that playing at Michigan, I was really used to the Division I level, where there’s resources and funding. There’s almost a paid position for everything.
At the Division II level, the resources are very limited. The money isn’t there. Something that I learned quick is that you’re not just a GA who helps an assistant. You do a bunch of other things on top of it.
Here, I spend 8 to 10 hours a week making sure highlight films are done on Friday nights, and we do all of the importing, editing and transcribing of the film. We help coaches with their daily responsibilities, like making copies, making sure meetings are set up to be run.
Juan Harris is single again again again again. The enormous IA DT decommitted from Indiana after three separate Iowa commitments. I can't wait to see where this rollercoaster goes. Hopefully back to Indiana twice more.
Etc.: The Big 12 probably isn't expanding because the TV networks will pay them not to. This might seem like a fiasco but could it actually be a bit of Machiavellian brilliance? What went wrong under Hazell other than everything. Nigel Hayes visited Gameday to protest not getting paid. Fred Jackson is the head coach at Ypsi High now. Indiana's struggles in the redzone dissected. The playoff looks all but set, so of course things will implode over the next month.
1 hour 49 minutes
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Don’t Call Him the Defensive Coordinator, and Centers
starts at 1:00
Sea change for a program that’s been in the 100s in KenPom D. Wright State’s media didn’t understand why he was fired—Donlon’s defenses have straight-up been better than Michigan’s almost consistently, despite 6’6 centers. Speaking of centers who can’t play defense, we’re ready for Mo Wagner to stay on the floor.
Wings and Guards
starts at 16:08
Irvin’s back, Robinson’s shot, Wilson’s athleticism, Ibi’s bulk, MAAR’s slashing and perimeter D, Walton’s foot issues, Simpson’s Darius Morris impersonation.
Regent Larry Deitch
starts at 35:50
Tuition inflation. What to do with the endowment: does it have to be building stuff? What do Regents do? The Day of Dave’s Fireworks. How the University handles sexual assaults. Balancing public school disclosure vs competitive needs, e.g. Health System needs to compete with private institutions.
Talking Big Ten with Jamie Mac
starts at 1:18:38
Illinois-Rutgers and Iowa-Purdue (minus Replogle) were a lot closer than their scores. Maryland has a quarterback named Piggy. Nebraska played a Tommy Armstrong special; Indiana’s a hard third-best team in the B1G East. Brian cackles his way through the Michigan State-Northwestern box score. Did Wisconsin just make Ohio State look beatable?
- “Germany to Germany”—Ratatat
- “Pencil Rain”—They Might Be Giants
- “Across 110th Street”
THE USUAL LINKS
THIS MONTH IN MGOBLOG HISTORY:
Happy 10-year anniversary, Anthony. Anthony? You can get up now. Seriously you guys just scored or something I think.
I LIKE YOUR DISTRIBUTION
The conference win probabilities in Ecky Pting’s mid-season B1G Expectations say Michigan is likely to make it to The Game undefeated and has a 37% chance of winning out. Also it’ll be an uphill battle for one adjacent rival to make a bowl according to S&P:
State’s expected conference wins is now at 2.7, meaning if they’re a little bit lucky they’ll finish this season 5-7. Everybody in the B1G West is mediocre except Illinois leans pretty bad and Purdue is awful.
PATRICK SEES RED, DAVID SEES BLUE
BlueBarron is Patrick Barron, whose photography was first featured in HTTV Hockey-Hoops several years back when he was on the Daily, and who’s now part of our staff. He went to Rutgers and wrote a photo journal capturing the electric atmosphere of a night game in Piscataway:
Okay surely they looked more excited AFTER the game started.
See? There are two dudes behind the field goal who even have their arms in the air.
Also David Nasternack, who’s our do-everything behind the scenes guy, wrote up the first hockey game.
As Brian mentioned in his game column after Rutgers, the last time a team got beat as badly as Rutgers by Michigan, it was 1939, and the University of Chicago (HINT HINT) shut down its football team shortly after. The grandson of 1939 Michigan player Fred Olds wrote a diary about his grandpa’s team and how the OP became a fan. Those pre-War teams do still get together, though there are very few of them left.
MGrowOld has continued his own historical series, the badly titled “Forgotten Blue”, about Michigan greats that nobody has forgotten. The latest was mono-paw pitcher Jim Abbott. Fellow pitching great Jennie Ritter was before that. Rudy Tomjanovich was before that. Who’s that?
And finally on Wisconsin week we were treated to a trip down Badger Memory Lane, which was quite pleasant thankyouverymuch until 2005 ruined everything.
EARLY SPEIGHT vs EARLY RUDOCK
Blue Indy earned undying MGoRespect for coming up with a statistical comparison of Speight’s first half versus Rudock’s last year. Remember when we thought Rudock was miserable, and that put a hard cap on how good the year could go? It’d be nice to have some way to compare those. I thought to take Indy’s stats and chart against opponent pass defense:
Good pass defenses are on the left
The big differences came early: even if UCF ends up much worse than they look to S&P+ right now, that game and the Hawaii one were more efficient than any Speight played in the first half of last year. Rudock got two really bad pass defenses and was middling; Speight blew his away. The rest are non-opponent-dependent meh performances.
I’ve been waiting for this series to come up with some good ones before throwing them all out there.
Unfortunately Rutgers players mostly look like Rutgers, all Wisconsin players look the same, and Penn State players…we’re not going there.
REDSHIRTS REMAINING: Redshirt tracker is down to Peters, Walker, Spanellis, Ron Johnson, and Quinn Nordin. Keep your eyes out going forward for some of the burned shirts who might yet get a medshirt if they didn’t see the field against Penn State or after. Candidates include Davis, Nate Johnson, Eubanks, Dwumfour, Uche, Kemp, Gil, and Mbem-Bosse.
Your Moment of Zen:
Remember kids, if your team is full of super humans, game theory doesn't really matter. pic.twitter.com/dQNxqxjhcw
— Red Lee (@BDJargon) October 7, 2016
Courtesy of Red Lee.
[Bryan Fuller – MGoBlog]
John Beilein’s entering his tenth season at Michigan – making him the fourth-longest tenured coach in the Big Ten. At this point, his methods, basketball ideology, recruiting habits, and distinct offensive style have become very familiar in Ann Arbor; even though there legitimate questions about his recruiting and his typically poor defenses, he’s one of the best offensive minds in college hoops. After having two teams that were legit national title contenders, things have trended downwards for Michigan: they missed the NCAA Tournament in 2014-15 and barely snuck in last year.
Of course, the injury to Caris LeVert was a devastating blow – as were many of the other injuries that have plagued Michigan since their Final Four trip a few years ago. Even though Michigan didn’t particularly play well in non-conference play last season, that wasn’t the fault of LeVert: the senior had developed into an All-American caliber player, was putting in the best defensive effort of his career, and seemed much more comfortable in an alpha dog role than he did as a junior. Unfortunately, he was lost to a season-ending injury for the second consecutive season – and was still a first-round draft pick.
Even without LeVert for almost the entirety of conference play (as well as Spike Albrecht, who was also sidelined by injury), Michigan scraped together an NCAA Tournament resume that was good enough to barely get the Wolverines in as one of the last four teams – forced to play in the “First Four” in Dayton. The best thing about their resume was the lack of truly bad losses, and Ohio State was the only team that wasn’t tournament-quality to beat Michigan. A handful of marquee wins – against Maryland, Purdue, and Indiana – were enough. Michigan’s mediocre conference efficiency margin (+0.4) suggests that they were lucky to get in.
Each of the starters from last year’s team will be back. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin are the veterans; both were highly-regarded as recruits but have seemingly hit their ceilings – Walton shot 36% from two and Irvin had a sub-100 offensive rating last season. Joining them are Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, a slashing junior guard who’s old for his class, Duncan Robinson – mostly Just A Shooter – and Mark Donnal, a redshirt junior center who’s being pushed by tantalizing German big man Moritz Wagner.
While that starting five has a decided lack of star power – and most of the bench transferred, leaving incoming freshmen likely to play – continuity and experience are things that Michigan hasn’t been able to enjoy for several years. Even without a star, those factors (as well as Beilein’s expertise) should mean that the offense will be among the Big Ten’s best. Ultimately, this seems like a high-floor, low-ceiling type team: unless there’s significant defensive improvement, it’s hard to envision a leap back into the conference’s top tier.
[More on the Wolverines after the JUMP]
SEASON PREVIEW TAKE: Some concern generally overridden by Harbaugh's flawless track record as a QB coach and developer:
On one level, "who is the starting quarterback?" is the single most critical question about the 2016 Michigan Wolverines. On another level, eh, it'll be fine.
By the time the preview was published Speight was expected to start, and he has indeed started. The "expectations" section pointed out that Speight had just as much experience in Harbaugh's system as Rudock did even then, so a repeat of Early Rudock was probably not on the cards. On the other hand:
It's probably irrational to believe that the starter will be late-season Rudock. Despite Rudock's early struggles this is a guy who was a solid two-year starter at Iowa prior to his arrival. Speight has about two quarters of on-field experience, and O'Korn's season and a half ended in disaster.
...The end result should be somewhere near last year's outcome: 60% completions, 8 YPA, 2:1 TD-INT. The ride there should be far less turbulent.
I offered some clarification as I projected a new starter would be one of the most efficient QBs in the league: the Big Ten has no quarterbacks.
NUMBERS AT THE HALFWAY MARK: Close to preseason projections. He's at 62%, 7.5 YPA, and an 11-2 TD-INT ratio. The YPA is a bit off the target mark, but Speight's done a good job avoiding interceptions. He's also been fortunate that a number of throws against Wisconsin didn't get picked off. S&P+ has an "expected turnover margin" metric; Michigan is +6 on the season but expected to be +3; I'd imagine most of this is a gap between the number of PBUs the other team has gotten without picking the ball off.
Otherwise, fancystats are oddly enthusiastic, with S&P+ declaring Michigan the #26 passing offense thus far despite peripheral numbers that are mediocre. They do capture Speight's tendency to start slow:
Michigan has a spate of average-or-worse P5 passing defenses coming up (Illinois, MSU, Indiana, and Iowa are all in a band between 46th and 68th in S&P+, with Indiana(!!!) leading the way at 46) along with a good Maryland outfit (that is terrible at run defense, surprise) and the looming monstrosity that is Ohio State. The schedule doesn't uptick until the Game and whatever postseason Michigan arrives at; Speight should reach the end of the regular season with numbers at least equal to his current production.
FEELINGSBALL: It's hard to tell if we're genuinely disappointed in Speight's performance as a redshirt sophomore first-year starter or if we just don't have anything else to complain about. UFRs and PFF suggest the former, however. Speight's shown a couple of nice attributes—he's got excellent pocket presence and will find second and third reads—that are offset by spates of iffy accuracy, especially early.
This certainly doesn't feel like a passing offense on the verge of the top 25 nationally, and Speight stands out as the single biggest fixable problem Michigan has.
UP OR DOWN OR EH: I'd say this is a slight downgrade, because Speight's actually gone slightly backward from a strong start. The trajectory has been flat over the past few games, and he's increasingly unlikely to take off a la Rudock.
SEASON PREVIEW TAKE: De'Veon Smith was projected as the main man, flanked by Ty Isaac and Drake Johnson, the two veteran options. Smith was "a good bet to be Michigan's first 1,000 yard back since Fitz Toussaint" after a second half surge in 2015, but I did use "plurality" instead of "majority" when describing his workload.
Ty Isaac was expected to emerge after a rough 2015 largely based on practice hype and Harbaugh press conference pronouncements; I expected him to be the clear #2 and heir apparent. Chris Evans actually got quite a lot of airtime for someone listed as a backup to Jabrill Peppers at the "spread H" position I made up so I could shoehorn Peppers into the RB post, because the practice chatter about him had been nonstop.
Karan Higdon, on the other hand, was shoved in with the freshmen and mostly forgotten about.
NUMBERS AT THE HALFWAY MARK: Drake Johnson's recovery from the forklift thing was apparently exaggerated; he has not played. Smith has gotten the plurality of carries and might have a slight majority of snaps but it's a lot more even than we thought it would be preseason. This is partially because Michigan's been on the friendly end of a lot of blowouts; it is partially because the top four backs are all producing. The four milkmen:
- Smith: 61 carries, 5.5 YPC
- Ty Isaac: 53 carries, 5.5 YPC
- Evans: 48 carries, 8.3(!) YPC
- Higdon: 35 carries, 7.4 YPC
This is, how you say, unsustainable. Higdon in particular has been handed multiple offset draw touchdowns so easy that most readers of this blog could have picked up a first down on them. The fancystats that ignore garbage time have Michigan 21st as a rush offense.
FEELINGSBALL: Along with the linebackers this unit is the most pleasant surprise of the season. Smith has mostly picked up where he left off in the bowl game. There have been a few iffy cuts but those are the exceptions rather than the rule; he seems to have learned to press the hole and put himself in another gap. His pass protection may have fallen off a bit and he fumbled against Rutgers; otherwise he's been close to the best version of himself.
Meanwhile the other three guys are revelations. And yes, three. Since Isaac did little last year and nothing after his fumbles against Maryland this is actually three players bursting onto the scene, not two. And burst they have. Each guy brings a slightly different package of skills to the table. Isaac is huge and can weave from one hole to the next, stiffarming the first DB he meets into a pile of sludge. Evans is lightning quick and will turn five yards into 50 more consistently than other options—he's averaging 10.3(!) yards a play after he gets those first five, which is a bonkers number. Higdon is the best guy for a power play, a shifty guy who runs low to the ground and bounces off tackles.
All of them have looked like capable feature backs. Ty Wheatley's found some traction with his charges this year.
UP OR DOWN OR EH: Major upgrade. Michigan entered the season still a little suspicious of Smith and uncertain if there was anything high-quality behind him. Six games into this season Michigan appears to have four good to very good backs.